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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Recommendations from the staff at Seven Stories Press

And we're back! Again! But this time for good. Probably!

This latest installment of Seven Stories Staff Picks, all of our book recommendations (where possible*) link directly to our comrades at Stories Books & Cafe. Pay them a visit the next time you're in LA!

*Where it's not available, we link to either Alibris or the book's publisher. 

Revenge of the Scapegoat
Revenge of the Scapegoat by Caren Beilin

This book is wild, and less than 200 pages. Revenge of the Scapegoat follows Iris, an adjunct professor at an arts college, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, who recieves a box of letters from her estranged father. The letters, which he'd given her previously, when she was a teenager, outline all of the ways in which the crises her family endured were, as her father says, entirely her fault. Thrown for a loop and reeling from the cruelty this act, as well as the chaos of her marriage (her husband is self-medicating his alcohol addiction by "microdosing heroin"), Iris takes off in her friend's busted old Subaru, adopts the name Vivitrix Marigold, and finds herself covered in manure, trapped below the hoof of a Nazi cow (long story) on the grounds of a rural art museum. Throughout all of this, we become acquainted with her trusty companions, her rheumatic feet named Bouvard and Pécuchet (after Flaubert). It's a delightfully bonkers story, perfect for fans of Kathy Acker, Guadalupe Nettel, Sarah Rose Etter, Pola Oloixarac, or even Ottessa Moshfegh.

Also, listen to the band Pylon. Especially if you're into Gang of Four or X or Pixies or The Fall. They're incredible, and I'm thrilled that they're finally on streaming platforms after so long. Listen to this song first, and then watch this music video. You won't regret it.


Pina by Titaua Peu, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman

Titaua Peu's Pina translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, out soon from Restless Books, is an extraordinary novel that brings to mind the fiction of Emile Zola, depicting dehumanization in a highly nuanced social setting, and with a lush naturalist eye. And although the book is written in French, it is infused at the same time with a syntax and vocabulary and style that derives from the Polynesian dialect spoken in Tahiti. And it will almost certainly be the first work of Tahitian literature you've ever read. 


Abolition. Feminism. Now. by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners, and Beth E. Richie

The overturning of Roe v. Wade has had me thinking about the connections between abolition and reproductive justice and abortion access. Like the writer Charlotte Shane tweeted recently “If nothing else please let this be the moment that cements your commitment to prison abolition. They are going to incarcerate people for miscarriages. They are going to incarcerate mothers and aunts and big sisters for helping teenage relatives abort.” 

Abolition. Feminism. Now. is both a call to action (“Now.”) and a genealogy of abolitionist movements, from the beginning of abolitionist feminist conferences and thought to current-day movements like No New Jails NYC. A stark reminder that our liberation is collective. 


Black Country, New Road

UK band Black Country, New Road came out of nowhere. They arrived fully formed, with two singles that harkened back to a beloved period of late-80s/early-90s indie rock. With lyrics that aimed to take pop-culture mundanity and find transcendence in it, and drawing inspiration from heavy-hitters like Sonic Youth, Slint, and The Fall, they immediately found themselves adrift in an ocean of buzz. For the first time, their debut album, fleshed out the prickly, stand-offish sound of the singles, adding elements of jazz and Eastern European folk music to their guitar noise meltdowns. 

Their second album, released in early 2022, was a complete re-direction. Pivoting away from abrasion and ugliness, and toward something deeply personal and musically accessible, Ants From Up There draws from the sounds of early 2000s indie rock (specifically, early Arcade Fire maximalism).The album has been a bittersweet triumph—universally acclaimed, full of recurring themes and motifs that all build toward the breathtaking final three minutes. And yet, days before the album’s release, and just before the band were slated to begin their first US tour, singer Isaac Wood announced that he was leaving the band, citing mental health issues (he works in a bakery now, and has reportedly never been happier).

The rest of the band has opted for an unusual path—continuing on in a new iteration. They wrote new songs, and have refused to play any of the material from their first two albums during their live shows, out of respect for their friend. Their constant evolution, close-knit group dynamic, and the fact that all 7-ish members of the band are unbelievably talented, has made them the most exciting band in the world (at least to me). We’re lucky to be along for the ride.


Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au

Right now I'm reading Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au, a short, elusive novel about a mother and daughter who take a trip to Japan. They go to bookstores and museums and restaurants; they try to communicate but can't seem to reach one another, leaving the most important things unsaid. That makes it sound a bit sad, and it is, but here the difficulties of communication are as miraculous as they are frustrating—it reminds me of the Rilke line about love as two solitudes side by side. I'm halfway through and reading it slowly to make it last.


Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin

While I sit baking in my house in the burbs, I've also been walking the streets of Paris, London, Tokyo, Venice and New York (well, I get there on my own for real sometimes) with Lauren Elkin, the author of—and a partaker of the lifestyle of a—Flâneuse. Yes, perambulating through the world's great cities is an activity for those with the time and money for such leisurely and indulgent activities, but if armchair travel or upending the male-dominant view is your summer jam, then I highly recommend a cosmopolitan, woman-centered, art and literature-filled jaunt with Elkin. However, if you haven't read Annie Ernaux's Happening yet, or seen Audrey Diwan's powerful film of the story, you must (!) put it at the top of your list, well ahead of any flaneuse-ing.


X by Davey Davis

X begins with an S/M waterboarding scene and opens up into a not-so-distant future in which undesirables (the racialized, dissident, transexual, drug using, poor, and immigrant) are forced to “export” themselves to other countries at the prodding of the US government. Amidst this ongoing descent into fascism, our protagonist Lee, a sadist and asshole with arguably good intentions, finds themself searching for X — a “femdom nightmare” who tops them at a warehouse party in Brooklyn. I don’t read a lot of thrillers or noir, but this isn’t genre for genre’s sake— X’s vampiric tone is the perfect cover for a deep consideration of how ordinary life persists amidst political crisis. The author of the earthquake room and a newsletter about people called David, Davis writes brilliantly about how the state infects our desires and decisions; if all of our hands are in the dirt, what makes you feel good, and what lengths do you go to get it? (In COVID quarantine in a world that feels pretty identical to X’s, I have a few pages left, but it’s too good to not be included on this list.)


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