I.

News

Heresy Press publishes TWO new novels:
• Just out NOW: Animal: Notes from a Labyrinth by Alan Fishbone. This fiercely beautiful book delves deeply into the muck and glory of life, tackling the enduring perplexities of love, art, identity, and our bondage to pleasure.

Animal

Advance Praise:
“Alan Fishbone occasionally conjures the Roman poet Catullus (amid many subjects), and like that great role model he’s unafraid to explore the messy effluvia of life: wet coffee grounds on a wall, excreta, the smell of a musky goat. He’s also not afraid to explore the pain of betrayal. His voice in this collection of edgy, gritty encounters with life is interspersed with that of his scarred German friend, Dieter, to form a jangling, modernist counterpoint that’s highly addictive.”
—James Romm, Professor of Classics at Bard College and author of The Sacred Band: Three Hundred Theban Lovers and the Last Days of Greek Freedom

• On March 15, The Hermit by Katerina Grishakova was released. This is the story of a successful Wall Street banker who considers career suicide to save his soul. The book can be ordered from Heresy Press directly or at Amazon.com.

The Hermit

  • After its release, The Hermit became an Amazon ebook #1 bestseller in the categories biographical literary fiction and movie tie-ins, while claiming the overall bestseller spot for New Releases of Kindle ebooks.
  • The Hermit was chosen as one of IndieReader’s “Best Reviewed” books of March!
  • The Hermit was featured on the cover of Publisher’s Weekly, March 28 edition.

Advance Praise:
“A Tom Wolfe for the Instagram age! Katerina Grishakova writes with the assurance of a seasoned novelist even as her pages sing out with the exuberance of a newcomer. The Hermit is a stylish, sophisticated story of how internal turmoil can ravage the soul even as external success can nourish the ego. Ruthless, funny, and dazzlingly sharp-eyed on the details, Grishakova is a thrilling new voice.”
— Meghan Daum, author of The Problem With Everything

Deadpan by Richard Walter continues to garner attention:
• On March 8, Heresy Press Director Bernard Schweizer published an article about Richard Walter’s Deadpan which traces the manifestations of subversive Jewish humor in the pages of this hilarious and thought-provoking story about bigotry, comedy, and redemption.

• On April 3, Richard Walter read from Deadpan and signed books at Book Soup, L.A. Before a standing-room only crowd at Book Soup on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, Walter passionately advocated for Heresy Press’s mission and then read passages from Deadpan to a rapt audience.

Richard Walter

Photo credit: Kathy Berardi

On April 13, a reading and Q&A of Nothing Sacred was held at the Williams Center, in Rutherford, New Jersey. Lou Perez, Michael Liska, Jonathan Stone, and Lukas Tallent read passages from their stories and engaged in a lively Q&A.

Nothing Sacred reading

Photo credit: Luz Colpa & Britton Buttrill

II.

Heresy Press welcomes two new members to its Advisory Board

Junot DiazJunot Diaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the Pulitzer Prize; and This is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist.

• Read the mini-interview with Junot Diaz where he sheds light on the literary influences that shaped him and voices his support for Heresy Press.

Karen GantzKaren Gantz is a leading New York City-based legal and literary professional. As President of Karen Gantz Literary Management, she champions many authors, spearheading international rights and adaptations for TV and film. Beyond her legal prowess, Karen is an author herself, with titles like Taste of New York and Superchefs to her name.

• Read Karen Gantz’s profile on our website to learn about her background and ideas, and why she supports Heresy Press.

III.

Flash Fiction

The Adventures of God

by Sarah McElwain

God goes to the grocery store. Mrs. God goes too. He pushes the cart. She looks fabulous in her silver supplex catsuit, hair bronzed into a power helmet.

“Where are all the apples?” God asks a teenager, shelving OatsN’Stuff.

God repeats this question three times. He sees fruit loops, tarts and roll-ups. Finally the kid hears him over the chuga-chuga coming from his earbuds. He hands God a box that contains desiccated fruit bits.

What’s happened to all the apples, God wonders. He had His heart set on a crisp Macoun. Of all His apples, God loves the Macoun best. He’d happily settle for a good old Macintosh or a Golden Delicious. Even a small, hard Pippin.  God would like to smite His breast, but Mrs. God is watching. She made Him stop breast smiting years ago.

The apples are an opportunity for Mrs. God to say, “I told you so. All that washing, peeling, coring. People just want convenience.” She should know. She’s been a housewife for 8,000 years.

Mrs. God is often right. Take the knee for example. Mrs. God told Him the hinge joint would never last. Maybe when people lived 40 or 50 years. Now He hears rebuke from the 80–100+ age group about this shoddy knee design on a daily basis.

On the way home God sits the back seat of the Golden Chariot. Mrs. God is in front with the new driver, Phaethon, the younger son of Helios and the nymph Clymene. God wonders if He should recall the knee. Admit a mistake? Offer a rebate? In the Dark Ages recalling a defective hinge joint might have been possible. But in this millennium there’s too much body consciousness.

Phaethon pulls into the circular driveway. God’s house is magnificent. They’ve got quite a chunk of real estate up here. God goes upstairs and lies on their bed with His sandals on. Mrs. God has told God one million times not to lie on top of the comforter with His sandals on, but Mrs. God is downstairs in the hot tub with the Devil, and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

He’s too tired to answer prayers. It was easier when people got down on their knees. When God feels powerless and dejected, He recites the Desiderata. “Go placidly….” This afternoon He can’t remember the rest. “Something, something…through the dark and….” God yawns. “Don’t worry about the universe. It’s unfolding exactly as it ought to….” He falls asleep. God’s not dead. He’s just upstairs resting.

When he wakes, it’s cocktail time. God puts a short golden robe over his sweatpants and goes downstairs. Zeus and Mrs. Zeus have already arrived. Zeus looks great in Armani, sleeves rolled up to show off his brown, muscular forearms. His long silver mane is gone, styled and buzzed now. Zeus invites God to hurl thunderbolts tomorrow afternoon. God no longer enjoys hurling thunderbolts the way He used to. He’s even quit bowling.

The sight of Mrs. Zeus does make God’s heart beat faster. Unlike Mrs. God, Mrs. Zeus still wears a coronet of golden braids. God finds this bewitching. He’s on His way over with a chalice of nectar when a visiting god from Katmandu intercepts Him with a boring story about the Great Oneness. Pretending to listen, God eavesdrops on the conversation Mrs. God and Kali are having. Mrs. God is complaining about how far they are from the beach up here. She’s considering a trip to Miami with Kali for the shopping.

God knows the real reason Mrs. God is flying to Miami is that the Devil owns a nightclub in South Beach. If only they’d had more children, He thinks, not for the first time. He needs do something miraculous to prove he’s not dead. Is it time for a new commandment? But that would mean dealing with Moses’ people.

The entertainment starts. Five blue-painted pagans banging drums! It’s all too much. God wants to close His ears the way He closes His eyes much of the time. Why aren’t there earlids to block out abominable noises?

“That’s it,” he says, snapping his fingers, firing a small spark of lightning. “Yesiree,” God chuckles. “Earlids!” Why didn’t He think of it sooner? He’ll be widely blessed for this miracle. Who said God was dead. He’ll be Numero Uno again in time for Christmas. There’s only one question, God thinks. Should earlids come with lashes? Or should earlashes be optional?

 

Bio:

Sarah McElwain teaches tutorials at Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Philip Schultz’s Writers Studio. For ten years, she co-hosted Writers Read NYC, providing performance venues for writers in Greenwich Village. Her essay, “Fingertips Part 3, With Thanks to Stevie Wonder,” about teaching yoga to the blind is in The Art of Touch, University of Georgia Press (2023).

IV.

Director’s Cut

Why Do We Call Ourselves HERESY PRESS?

By Bernard Schweizer

haíresis (αἵρεσις) Greek = “choice” (or the chosen path among competing philosophies)

Heresy Press was created to make a difference. But it doesn’t aim to transform literature in unprecedented ways, and it doesn’t extract from its authors an oath of allegiance to a set of dissenting doctrines. We don’t even require that all stories we publish are overtly contrarian, heterodox, or dissident. Instead, we simply want writers to do what literary artists have done since time immemorial, i.e. to practice creative freedom, to give expression to unfettered imagination, and to write beautiful prose that can stand the test of time.

So, why do we call ourselves Heresy Press?

The answer can be traced to the original Greek definition of the word “heresy” which means simply “choice,” or “chosen path.” In this case, our choice is to emphasize the “traditional” notion that literary merit should trump political conformity and that works of literature are first and foremost aesthetic artifacts and not vehicles for social reform, however conceived. Over the past 10 years or so, the literary establishment—i.e. academe, the library system, publishing houses, literary agents, and review media—has redefined the significance of literature by pushing the view that literary narratives are repositories of political convictions and that characters enact collective identities.

In less than a generation, this instrumentalist concept of literature has become the new orthodoxy, while a shrinking minority holds on to the view that literature should aspire primarily to be a beacon of originality, creativity, imagination, beauty, and truth. Heresy Press is part of this minority outlook, and our heretical choice is to work against the new trend that pushes literature in the direction of didacticism and propaganda.

Of course, political, cultural, moral, religious, racial, historical etc. ideas and norms inevitably filter into works of art—it would be surprising if they didn’t—but those aspects are not what literature is about. Yet, the current literary establishment seeks to reduce literature to identity-based, politicized categories, usually associated with race, colonization, sex and gender.

And the literary establishment doesn’t only keep tabs on such matters, it actively requires them. If you are a Black writer, you are expected to write victim narratives (as American Fiction so memorably illustrates). If you are a white writer, you are not allowed to touch subjects that involve non-white protagonists. If you are a woman writer, you should write about female empowerment, condemning toxic masculinity. If you are gay, bi, or trans, your sexual orientation or gender identity must be the defining characteristic of your narrative. And if you happen to fall into that most disdained of all authorial categories—the white, straight, male type—you better ditch your literary aspirations altogether, since the publishing industry is giving the impression that white, straight, male writers can be ignored without incurring any loss (unless they happen to be already so famous that silencing them would cut into the publishers’ bottom line).

Heresy Press opposes such anti-artistic restrictions and creativity-killing norms, promoting instead a type of literature that is uninhibited, ambitious, free-roaming, uncensored, wild, and audacious. In our current publishing climate—dominated by fear, self-censorship, rhetorical safetyism, and conformity—this freedom-oriented, freethinking, and merit-based focus has become so unconventional and frowned upon as to bear out the label “heretical.”

But let us keep in mind that the term “heretic” is inherently situational. Few people refer to themselves by this designation—it’s usually others that are the damnable heretics. The literary establishment will indeed look at our unconventional and sometimes “incorrect” books and point a disapproving finger at us. Of course, from the point of view of those who are branded as heretics, the inverse viewpoint pertains, as they tend to view their detractors as the ones who have fallen into error. With this being said, the name Heresy Press is imbued with irony and ambivalence, and it therefore reflects the very ambiguity, irony, polysemy, and openness of the books that we publish.

But there’s another way in which we are truly heterodox. Take a close look at our Advisory Board, and you will find there a degree of racial, gender, age, and political diversity that would put most academic departments that pride themselves on diversity to shame. Indeed, Heresy Press’s Advisory Board reflects a genuine diversity, not only visually and genetically, but also in terms of the Board member’s viewpoints on issues ranging from racism and gender to COVID and Israel. The only commonality among everybody is a robust commitment to the freedom of consciousness and speech and a principled opposition to censorship and group think.

Likewise, the stories we publish do not adhere to any specific ideological playbook. Yes, we have a good number of left-leaning authors, but we’re far from making this an ideological litmus test. Our belief in the value of viewpoint diversity is unshakable.

Too many cultural organizations are nowadays rigorously self-sorting to form homogenous political silos. Here, too, Heresy Press bucks the trend, acting as a disruptor. When all is said and done, the label of “heresy” is less a term of opprobrium than a richly meaningful, ironic, ambiguous, and thought-provoking term that is well aligned with our mission.

V.

Call for Flash Fiction and Guest Essay

Please submit your flash-fiction (up to 800 words) for consideration, to be published in the Speakeasy newsletter. Submit your story to bernard@heresy-press.com. Submissions are considered on a rolling basis.

If you would like to contribute a short, 800-word critical essay on any aspect of the literary craft or the world of publishing, please submit the article to bernard@heresy-press.com. Submissions are considered on a rolling basis.