Heresy Press’s forthcoming first book garners major accolades!
Our short-story anthology Nothing Sacred: Outspoken Voices in Contemporary Fiction—available for purchase in November 2023—has already received remarkable advance praise:

Joyce Carol Oates“I highly recommend this gathering of boldly original voices with a predominant tone of wild invention and fearlessness side by side with the intimacy of domestic life in our turbulent American times.”
— Joyce Carol Oates (National Book Award winner and author of Zero-Sum: Stories)

Junot Diaz“Incandescent… perhaps the finest, most courageous, most profoundly moving anthology I’ve read in a decade or two. Here gathered is genius, compassion, courage… an exhilarating gift to readers everywhere.”
— Junot Díaz (Pulitzer Prize Winner for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)

Rebecca Newberger“The brilliant diversity of visions and sensibilities represented in Nothing Sacred not only makes this collection entertainingly unpredictable but speaks to some of the deepest questions currently ripping our society apart, including the true meaning of diversity.”
— Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (Recipient of the National Humanities Medal and author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, a Work of Fiction)

Heresy Press is preparing to release two more titles this year.
The next two books to be issued from Heresy Press, the novels Deadpan and The Hermit, will simultaneously go on sale in December 2023. Two more novels are currently in pre-production and will be officially released next spring. Several further manuscripts are close to being accepted for publication. The future looks bright for imaginative, liberated, and boundary-challenging fiction from our house.

Die ZeitInterview with Heresy Press’s Director to appear in Die Zeit.
In time for the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Germany’s largest weekly Die Zeit will feature an extended (already recorded) interview with the director of Heresy Press, Bernard Schweizer, ranging over the philosophy and mission of Heresy Press, as well as addressing prickly questions about sensitivity readers, cultural appropriation, censorship, and book bans.

Heresy Press will be represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall!
The two founders of Heresy Press—Bernard and Liang Schweizer—will be personally present at the world’s largest book fair to promote Nothing Sacred, which will be officially exhibited there, and to explore international licensing and translation opportunities. Being present at the Frankfurt Book Fair sends a signal that Heresy Press is to be seen as an ambitious and serious player in the field of literary publishing.

x twwetHeresy Press has joined Twitter (presently known as X).
We will make announcements about new title releases and other important developments at the press on Twitter. Please consider retweeting our posts! twitter.com/InfoHeresy


Forthcoming Releases

Nothing SacredNothing Sacred, edited by Bernard Schweizer & James Morrow

Exploring uncharted literary territory, Nothing Sacred: Outspoken Voices in Contemporary Fiction offers discerning readers a compilation of diverse, boundary-pushing short stories that touch on topics reflecting the diverse patchwork of our society, including crumbling male privilege, moonshine whiskey brewing, language policing, sexual transgression, immigrant experience, and–yes–plain heresy.

At a time when the American publishing industry increasingly perceives fiction lovers as rather delicate creatures—easily offended, allergic to ambiguity, afraid to venture outside their comfort zones—the present anthology was born of the opposite assumption. While the twelve authors represented here could scarcely be more diverse in their worldviews, cultural backgrounds, thematic obsessions, and prose styles, they all share two attributes: an abiding respect for their readers, and a ravenous appetite for audacity. Among the unique characters that populate these tales are a washed-up former child star who entices two female fans to his Hollywood lair; a band of Cuban immigrant children determined to celebrate Independence Day on their own terms; an alternate-history Malcolm X confronting J. Edgar Hoover’s squad of zombies; a medical student who supports himself by starring in video porn; a rogue AI in thrall to a notorious Christian heresy; and an eccentric Tennessee moonshiner with a gift for hypnotic rhetoric. They are all eager to make their readers’ acquaintance.

DeadpanDeadpan by Richard Walter

Deadpan is a contagiously funny novel about an unfunny subject—hate speech and bigotry—that takes readers on a ride of unlimited imagination, featuring a messiah of comedy who just might mend the social fabric and dissolve acrimony with laughter.

Deadpan follows the misadventures of a vaguely antisemitic West Virginia Buick dealer who wakes up one day transformed into the world’s most popular Jewish comedian. Steeped in magical realism, the narrative confronts the incandescent issues of our day: Identity, intolerance, tribalism and the redemptive force of humor. The novel’s unfettered comical sensibility is a vivid testament to Mark Twain’s dictum “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Set during the world-wide oil crises of the 1970s, the narrative alternates between locations in West Virginia, Las Vegas, Washington, Tehran, and Sinai, featuring characters as diverse as Sarah Palin, Mel Brooks, and the Shah of Iran. Walter’s phantasmagorical tour-de-force is not only a satirical takedown of antisemitism (and bigotry in general) but also a dazzling celebration of human dignity, resilience, and humor.

The HermitThe Hermit by Katerina Grishakova

The Hermit is a riveting debut novel about the slow unraveling of an aging finance bro—a successful New York bond trader and man about town—who grows disenchanted with his daily hustle and is forced to confront the nameless discontent that haunts the Masters of the Universe.

The Hermit explores the world of high-stakes investment banking with a sharp eye for the existential ramifications of this calling. The plot follows the daily routine of Andy Sylvain, a 50-year-old Manhattan bond trader who grows disenchanted with his daily hustle and starts to contemplate a clean break. He’s a Master of the Universe whose thoughts and inner rationales betray a lost and confused man who cannot even describe what ails him, much less outline a cure for his malaise. Written in a breezy style, the novel’s levity is deceptive: underneath sparkling descriptions of conspicuous consumption, glitzy parties, and the intricacies of trading-floor battles, the reader will find layered meditations on the poignant conflict between the rational, technocratic world and our immutable yearnings for a transcendent order of things.


Flash Fiction

The story featured in this newsletter is an excerpt from Animal, a slim, intense book to be released by Heresy Press in spring of 2024.

Blowjob, a Love Letter

by Alan Fishbone

Well, if I were a painter, I thought, I would paint you in the glory of your nudity, your long, cyclist’s limbs and moonlike derriere, your elastic thorax and delicious nipples like suppliant, pink macaroons. I see you on a half-shell, risen from the depths of sleep and into the surf of my awakening. There are puffy-cheeked breezes ruffling the wavelets and grass sprouts beneath your feet as you step on the shore, copper hair pressed to your vulva in a resplendent cliché of beauty. Words flutter around you like cherubim, oystrix, nacreous, aphrodisia. But I am neither a painter nor poet and would not insult you with these romantic idealizations. In the end, an ideal is little more than a doll, and I’d rather get back to the fact that you asked me to write you.

I was in Berlin, walking west on Fehrbellinerstrasse. It was a cold spring morning and had rained the previous evening. There were still some thin puddles scattered around, but the sun was out and the sky was a brilliant blue. On the pavement, at the edge of a puddle, something small and black and moving caught my eye. I bent down to investigate and found a bumblebee, wet and nearly frozen, writhing slowly on the ground like a fallen athlete. It seemed to cost him everything he had just to accomplish this movement. His wings were soaked and useless, and the sodden hairs of his fuzz were tamped down against his wet black sides. A bright orange band ringed his abdomen. He must have gotten caught and downed in the rain, like a hapless Icarus, and spent the night exposed in the bitter cold. I considered crushing him to put him out of his misery, a quick pop of his thoracic capsule and the pain would be reduced to a smear of inert gelatin.

It was about 9:30 in the morning. Right nearby was a metal cabinet about shoulder height, the top of which was blazing yellow in the sunlight, so I picked him up and set him on the warm surface to see if would help him to revive. Immediately he began to squirm and stretch his limbs. I could almost feel the heat seeping through and warming into his core. I leaned in close and exhaled onto him and the moist heat of my breath added to the sunlight seemed to bathe and ooze through him like an orgasm. He began expanding his segments and rolling from side to side, stroking and brushing himself with his forelegs. After five or six long slow breaths and the time spent drying in the sun, his wings suddenly exploded into motion, buzzing and blurring the light around them to a shimmering golden halo. I began vibrating my vocal cords as I breathed over him and even though his eyes were the same expressionless black light bulbs, it felt like we were communicating in a strange way, him buzzing and expanding and me moaning over him and exhaling into his prickly little hairs. A few more breaths and he was gone, up and off, in a wide curving trajectory. It was beautiful.

This morning I woke up and thought of that half-frozen bee. I was stiff and sore and cold. The windows had been open all night in the bedroom and the wind was shrieking and rattling the panes. The cross-ventilation was fierce, and the temperature must have been close to zero. I know you like to sleep naked in the freezing air, bundled under layers of blanket and feather, but my limbs were beaten down and stiff and the night was still black outside. I felt old and immobile, grappling with demons of failure, and the universe seemed empty and malicious. Well, get up and close the window, you might have said, and soon the dawn will appear, but you were far away in New York, and I was huddled and shivering. What I really missed was my lithe red angel, to appear from above, or below or beyond, to warm me and light me and blow me back to humanity.


A Work of Fiction is not a Crime Scene
(Reflections on the state of literary publishing, Part II)

By Bernard Schweizer & James Morrow

The birth of Heresy Press was occasioned by a peculiar malaise currently affecting the publication of fiction in America. “Sensitivity readers” have arrived on the scene, purging lexical impurities, expunging potential “trigger” moments, and, en passant, usurping the reader’s right to a discomfiting but possibly revelatory aesthetic experience.

No less condescending toward fiction consumers is the ubiquitous “own-voices” doctrine, whereby a major character’s racial, ethnic, or gender identity is expected to match the racial, ethnic, or gender identity of the author. It’s as if the accident of birth should somehow count for more than a writer’s personal efforts to articulate nuanced and pleasurable reactions to the mystery of being alive.

Publication venues are becoming increasingly closed to novelists as well respected as Richard North Patterson, simply because their phenotypes are thought to disqualify them from wrestling with racial injustice, ethnic stereotyping, or sexual politics. In the current climate, a latter-day Flaubert submitting a manuscript to a publisher with a cover letter asserting “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” (a remark Flaubert reputedly made about his heroine) would be foolish to expect sympathetic consideration.

Today a publisher thinks nothing of vandalizing Roald Dahl’s books, swapping out words that might conceivably give offense—“ fat,” “ugly,” “crazy,” “hag”—for empty euphemisms. The substitution game is also imposed on characters whose speeches include morally reprehensible words, even if real people in actual situations would use them. George Orwell’s newspeak is evidently alive and well in the offices of contemporary editors and agents.

Our informal surveys suggest that manuscripts featuring endearing and instantly likeable central characters will more probably find their way into print than works centered on morally ambiguous, enigmatic figures. A story that turns on a nonconformist Trump voter or an abused Jewish orphan who grows up to become a serial killer—characters you met in these pages—is unlikely to escape from the slush piles of the neo-Bowdlers who now occupy key niches in the cathedral of American letters.

Fiction that indulges in disrespect toward organized religion is also apt to make editors nervous. One of the present authors has a rejection letter in his files excoriating his manuscript for its “blasphemy” (the Virgin Mary is a prominent character). Salman Rushdie’s recent observation that The Satanic Verses could never find a major publisher today rang true for us the moment we heard it. While these enervating tendencies can be traced to ideological imperatives associated with the left, the political right proudly mounts its own narrow-minded crusades.

As I write these words, politicians and parent groups are collaborating to strip school library bookshelves of works that feature LGBTQ+ characters or explore subjects that conservatives wish to remove from public discourse, such as climate change, gender fluidity, and the shadow thrown across the founding of the American republic by the concentration-camp conditions imposed on African slaves in the Southern colonies.

Among the casualties inflicted by ideologically grounded editorial policies is the tremendous progress fiction writers have made over the years in the domain of unfettered expression, a freedom that arguably took root in 1933 when James Joyce’s “pornographic” novel Ulysses was vindicated by Judge John M. Woolsey (writing on behalf of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York). Ninety years later, it’s not an exaggeration to say that, for many mainstream publishers and even some indie presses, the ideal author is a person haunted by inhibitions. Such a bedeviled creature can be counted on to avoid allegedly insensitive locutions, putative cultural appropriation, or other extra-aesthetic transgressions that might hurl both the publisher and the writer into the vortex of a Twitter storm.

As the award-winning Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lamented in a recent BBC interview, the current “epidemic of self-censorship,” as she calls it, constitutes an unparalleled threat. When people are “afraid to ask questions for fear of asking the wrong questions,” the result will ultimately be “the death of curiosity, the death of learning and the death of creativity,” because “no human endeavor requires freedom as much as creativity does.”

None of this is to suggest that the cancers of white privilege and pervasive bigotry are about to go into remission. From pole to pole, our planet resounds with the tendentious messages of racists, misogynists, anti-Semites, homophobes, transphobes, Islamophobes, and Christian nationalists, even as readers seek out narratives that grapple honestly with the human condition in all its glorious pluralism. And yet separating the two sorts of discourse—the ugly and the illuminating— is not always simple, for they often exist in an uneasy dialectical alliance. Semantic shading and irreducible contextual complexity make language an always elusive, ever roaming, eternally surprising beast that we try to domesticate only at our peril. Hobbling the tongue is a poor strategy for disabling the bigot.

Postmodern thinkers make a categorical error when, ignoring the insights of 1984, they seek to cancel injustice by constraining vocabularies. The extensive research of free-speech advocates, from Nadine Strossen to Eugene Volokh, provides ample evidence that forbidding repugnant speech in public contexts leaves intact the evils to which those locutions point. While framed in good faith, the hate-speech laws passed during the Weimar era in Germany did nothing to transform the attitudes that prompted them. And when it comes to prohibitions enacted in bad faith—at the moment, the avatar of such censorship is Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis—we get the spectacle of Inauguration Poet Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” being removed from an elementary school library because it allegedly contains “hate messages.”

Then there is the question of humor. “Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks,” Mel Brooks recently remarked. “It’s the lecherous little elf whispering in the king’s ear, telling the truth about human behavior.” The late sociologist Christie Davies posited that jokes and satire, tasteless and otherwise, are vital to the health of a society because they function as thermometers as opposed to thermostats. Troublesome jokes take the temperature of our cultural and political institutions without presuming to alter the sobering realities that underlie them.

Fiction performs a similarly diagnostic function, though occasionally a novelist or short-story writer will strike a vein so rich that the narrative also becomes a thermostat—an agent of change. This phenomenon has arguably occurred with works as diverse as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, James Joyce’s Ulysses, George Orwell’s 1984, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. And yet, the cannier practitioners of fiction remain mindful of the principle that all art is entertainment (it doesn’t work the other way around), which accounts for why those six books make for such gripping reading experiences.

Nothing better illustrates the philosophy of Heresy Press than the stories gathered in the press’s first offering to the reading public, a short story anthology titled Nothing Sacred: Outspoken Voices in Contemporary Fiction. The stylistic range of these tales is broad. Therein are verbally baroque tales which—to paraphrase Keats—“load every rift with ore,” as well as stories where subversive currents roil beneath surfaces smooth as translucent jade. While the twelve authors represented in this anthology could scarcely be more diverse in their worldviews, cultural backgrounds, thematic obsessions, and prose styles, they all share an abiding respect for their readers and an appetite for audacity.


Presentation about Deadpan at the International Humor Studies Conference in Boston (July 2023)

In June, Bernard Schweizer gave a well-received academic talk about the forthcoming Heresy Press title Deadpan. His presentation at the 33rd annual conference of the International Society of Humor Studies in Boston was titled “Skewering Antisemitism: Richard Walter’s Satirical Novel Deadpan and the Deployment of Comical Stereotypes.”

Bernard Schweizer

Bernard Schweizer

Humor scholars debate whether Jewish jokes contribute to entrenching anti-Semitic stereotypes or whether, to the contrary, they help to undermine those very stereotypes by drawing attention to their absurdity (e.g. Baum 2017; Epstein 2001; Patt 2016; Saper 1993). It seems we have arrived at a turning point in this debate where certain sectors of society, academe, and publishing are increasingly unwilling to cede the second point, i.e. that Jewish jokes can be an effective—albeit ironic—means of promoting empathy and combatting bigotry. At a time when many are unwilling (or unable) to make the use/mention distinction of words and concepts, similarly the capacity to decode parody and enjoy absurdist humor is deteriorating. When this happens, Jewish humor is in jeopardy. Indeed, the publishing industry is currently moving toward pre-emptively excluding anything that may smack of an offensive statement, even if it is quite clearly parodic or ironically self-deprecating.

Deadpan, a satirical novel by Richard Walter, speaks to all of these issues, as it leverages Jewish (and other!) stereotypes precisely in order to undermine them. The novel audaciously invites the reader to inhabit the viewpoint of a protagonist who is an antisemitic fool. In a carnivalesque plot-twist, the simpleton finds himself magically transformed from an antisemite into a Jewish stand-up comedian—a punishment befitting the crime. Will this comical tour-de-force end with the bigot’s reformation as a more understanding human being? Walter’s madcap comical narrative presents a successful harnessing of humor for the benefit of greater tolerance, mutual respect, and openness without coming across as being didactic.



The Great Heresy Press REJECTION Contest:

We present here the winner of Heresy Press’s first rejection contest. The response below is from a well-known literary agent.

Dear [author],

I read [title] over the weekend and found it to be wildly entertaining. However, I am very sorry to say that I’m not the right agent for it. In some ways, the novel is terrifically mainstream – it’s got tons of action, a world remade by terror and environmental change, great characters, laughs and an everyman transformed into a semi-superhero. However, in my experience, publishers’ tastes have radically changed in 2020. Novels about near-middle-aged, schlubby, white-collar white guys whom life has treated unfairly are a tough-sell. Yours is so good that it might be an exception, but I don’t want to take it on thinking that it should sell but probably won’t.

I’m very sorry that this is my response to your excellent manuscript, which I genuinely enjoyed reading.

If you sit on a weirdly argued, unwittingly revelatory, or strangely evasive rejection for one of your works, please send it to bernard@heresy-press.com to be considered for the next edition of the Heresy Press Rejection Contest. The winning entry will be printed in this newsletter, and the winner will receive a t-shirt with the logo of Heresy Press.