I.

News

Heresy Press publishes Unsettled States by Tom Casey:
• Here’s a gripping story about voyeurism, loneliness, sado-masochism, infidelity, murder, and the ultimate triumph of secular humanism over magical thinking—a wild and stimulating ride.

Advance Praise:

“The lives of citizens in a small Connecticut town are anything but simple in this enchanting book…. The dysfunction hovering over suburbia is not exclusive to the life of a cop or a voyeur, as the story’s drama encapsulates the dissolution of two prominent couple’s marriages. The characters are well-developed, and the plot’s pacing is consistent, with more than a few surprises thrown in to make for a fulfilling read.”
— Philip Zozzaro, US Review of Books

“A good old-fashioned mystery novel that goes beyond its elegantly crafted whodunit into the deeper, messier mysteries of mental disorder and religious belief. Unsettled States is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is fun.”
— Kurt Andersen, author of Heyday

“Each of Casey’s characters are granted satisfying resolutions, many with surprising relevance to the main plot…. The languid pacing, bright details, and delightful indulgence in theology only add to this distinctively off-beat, quality mystery.”
— BookLife

>> Order the book now at the Heresy Press website or on Amazon.com.

Cover Reveal of new Heresy Press novel, forthcoming this fall:

Devil Take It

Devil Take It is an American Faust comedy, a political and newspaper satire, and an ironic moral fable in which Satan visits President Trump’s Washington as Dr. Grippin Fall, a psychiatrist. Written in the grand satirical tradition of Mark Twain, Mikhail Bulgakov, and John Kennedy Toole, this is a devilishly funny tale filled with absurd twists and surprising insights.

Book Bundles on sale now! Save BIG by getting one of these Heresy Press bundles:

Book Bundle 1

Book Bundle 1

Book Bundle 2

Book Bundle 2

Publicity:

Watch a spirited “Book Rant” about Heresy Press and its first four novels:

“Episode 63: While reviewing the first four novels published by the upstart Heresy Press, I comment on the attempt of the new independent house to take soft censorship and ideological curation out of the current publishing model while, most importantly, publishing literature of quality.”

Kindle ebook success:
Alan Fishbone’s Animal: Notes from a Labyrinth climbed to the #1 ranking for free Kindle books:

Amazon Best Sellers

Deadpan by Richard Walter became an Amazon top-ten bestseller. Congratulations!

Deadpan

 

II.

Guest Essay by Junot Díaz

HOW TO DOOMPROOF YOUR READING

When it comes to reading and book culture, the news has been anything but reassuring. Publishers are consolidating, book sales are sagging (unlike book bans, which are proliferating), and in the United States you’re lucky if an adult reads a single book a year. All of us in the book world have anecdotes that adumbrate the decline: mine comes out of my teaching. Call it the tale of two syllabi. At the start of my professorial career, I regularly assigned my students six full novels in a semester without eliciting much complaint, and believe it or not, the percentage of the class that read all the books was pretty high; now if I assign a single novel (and a short one at that) I’m grateful if half the students manage to finish the book.

But it ain’t only regular folks or debt-shackled students pulling back from the pages. Even those of us for whom reading is our prime passion struggle to find the time to read—at the same pace, with the same peace of mind—as in previous years. There are plenty of reasons for this lectoral erosion, but the main culprits are easily identified: our screen-fracked minds and a neoliberal-induced reactivity, a hegemonic structure of feeling that discourages any and all contemplative practices.

One can quibble over etiology, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that like our environment book reading is trending down. (But unlike with our environment, almost no one denies—or cares enough to deny—reading’s diminishment.) To give readers our due, we are holding the line better than anyone might have predicted, given the attention-devouring forces arrayed against us. But nevertheless, in spite our heroic efforts, the writing (on reading) is on the proverbial wall: we’re entering, or have already entered, an antilexic age. What remains to be decided is whether this age is ultimately reversible, or if it heralds a true reading apocalypse.

Me, I’m an optimist. I believe that books and the reading of them will survive and eventually return with greater force for the very same reason that books and reading have proven, even in retreat, so difficult to defeat. Because books are, ultimately, everything. It’s true: books are miracles, they are magic[1], they are truth[2]. Books make us free[3], they make us human[4], they give us life[5], they inspire, illuminate, entertain, connect[6], open[7], and pierce us. Books are doors[8], they are windows, they are mirrors[9], they are companions[10], they are teachers, they remind us we are not alone[11]—they are journeys, prayers, guided meditation[12], and they can stop time[13]. Books give us words for what we already know[14] and are a refuge from almost all the miseries of life[15] as well as a key to unknown chambers within the castle of our own self[16]. Books help create us[17]—our thoughts, our tempers[18]—and allow us slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul[19]. Books change lives, are a home, a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a counselor, a multitude of counselors [20]— they make us all immigrants[21]. Books are stars, living fires to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe[22]. Books, all books, are the measure of our lives, and they are small private acts of resistance [23]; books free us from of the predatory extractivist hyperspace of Capital and deliver us to the Slow Zone of human relatedness; books put us back into contact with our fractured, alienated selves, with the communities (living, imagined, dead) that comprise us, and they reassemble our keening fragmentations into something that might be called a conversation—or better still, a reckoning.

I could go on, but what’s important to remember is that for all their sublimities, books and the reading of them will not survive, much less regenerate, without a hard protracted lucha against overwhelming forces. In preparation for the long twilight struggle, we all have to come up with strategies, with practices, with anarchist lectoral calisthenics (of the James C. Scott kind), in the hopes of doomproofing whatever is best about our book reading cultures.

These are the strategies that I’m currently pursuing. Please share yours. We’ll need everything we can get.

ONE    read hungrily.

To put it simply, we should all read as many books as possible. If you can’t read a book a week, read a book a month, but whatever you do keep reading and keep wanting to read more than you already do.  A hungry reader is always trying to fit another book into their schedule.

TWO    read adventurously.

Don’t just read the genres you like or are familiar with. Vary your reading as much as possible. Try to read both contemporary and older books and always read books in translation.  That way you’re not exclusively trapped in neoliberalism’s perpetual present or in the headlock of US literary culture.

I have a book circuit: I read a fiction, a non-fiction, a book of scholarship, a comic, and a book of poetry and then I start the cycle all over again. Two of these books always are translations; two of them are always older.

Create your own book circuit. Reading, after all, like exercise, requires us to push ourselves, to work out muscles we would rather not work out, for best results.

THREE    read blasphemously.

Read books and writers that lay outside or athwart your political/identitarian comfort zone. I’m not saying read books/writers that want to see you dead or in a camp but just try, every now and then, to have contact with books that might not be your natural interlocutor, books that might not be your friend.

In an age like ours where folks are more partisan, more divided, more stuck in their networks than ever before, where the various sides often view each other as irredeemable and evil, my suggestion to fraternize with the enemy will strike some as straight up treason, as blasphemy.

Frankly, we could all use a whole lot more blasphemy.

Given the future that awaits all humanity, our age’s polarizing, atomizing, anti-solidaritous sword logic will not avail us—our political/identitarian purities will, in fact, doom us. If we are going to survive our dystopian future (and overcome our vampire hegemons), we will need to speak to each other across what will seem like impossible gulfs of difference. We will need to “accomplish ‘big things’ with and for people we don’t know or necessarily like”[1] ; and build family with people who are not family.  We will need to betray the mandates of our sides and learn to thrive in (or at least endure) blasphemous solidarities.

No better place to practice (or keep alive the hope of) this utopian imaginary than in our reading.

Because if we can’t practice radical solidarities in the safety of books, what hope have we for practicing them in the messiness of our real world?

“If you love literary culture, as I do, if you owe it your life, as I do, you will wish to defend it and Heresy Press is a bulwark, and in this burning world literary culture needs all the bulwarks it can get.”

– Junot Díaz

[1] Ruth Wilson Gilmore, quoted in “Divesting from Carceral Thinking,” Mariame Kaba and Andred Ritchie, Boston Review, Issue 2024:2

[1] Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Alice Hoffman

[2] Gao Xingjian, “It’s in literature that true life can be found. It’s under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth.”

[3] Ralph Waldo Emerson and Fredrick Douglass

[4] Leslie Marmon Silko

[5] Henry David Thoreau and Joan Didion and Maya Angelou

[6] James Baldwin

[7] Andre Dubus

[8] Jeanette Winterson

[9] Carlos Ruiz Zafon

[10] Henry Miller

[11] CS Lewis

[12] George Saunders

[13] Dave Eggers

[14] Alberto Manguel

[15] W. Somerset Maugham

[16] Franz Kafka

[17] Octavia Butler, “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”

[18] Ursula K. Le Guin

[19] Joyce Carol Oates

[20] Charles W. Eliot

[21] Jean Rhys

[22] Madeleine L’Engle

[23] Toni Morrison, personal conversation.

III.

Heresy Press appreciates the input of its amazing group of supporters. Thank you!

Advisory board

Learn more about our Advisory Board Members by logging on to www.heresy-press.com/about

IV.

Liberate the Word!

The word “sex” is now banned from press releases! When the Heresy Press director submitted a press release for Alan Fishbone’s Animal: Notes from a Labyrinth to be distributed by a media service, he received the following note:

“I was unable to publish the press release because the word ‘sex’ appears in it, which is a flagged word on media sites. I have revised the press release to remove the two instances of the word ‘sex’:

1. ‘…explore the tangled lives of prostitutes at the margins of society…’ [instead of “sex workers”]
2. ‘Toggling between erudition and carnal fetishes and violence…’” [instead of “sexual fetishes”]

It seems we have entered a new age of lexical prudery, in which “prostitute” is somehow preferred to “sex worker” and “sexual fetishes” becomes an unprintable phrase (and anyway, is “carnal fetish” a thing?). This is the un-brave new world of PC language policing, and it makes one wonder what the next “flagged word” on media sites may be?

Please share your own experiences for the “Liberate the Word” section of the newsletter.

Send your contribution for “Liberate the Word” to: bernard@heresy-press.com

V.

Riddle:

Question 1: Who are the two figures on the left and why are they associated with the book Animal? Question 2: Who is the figure holding the lantern and what is his relevance to The Hermit?

Anyone who correctly identifies both connections gets a free Heresy Press T-shirt (while supplies last). Email your answer to info@heresy-press.com

VI.

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.