As you prepare to spend that crisp $20 bill you get every holiday season from a vague relative (perhaps a great-aunt or second cousin) we urge you to remember underground literature. While bestseller lists remain largely comprised of dull books about dull people and their dull quandaries, the literary underground teems with weird, fascinating, tender, and socially conscious works.
This year, we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stellar stuff coming out. Reality Hands headquarters overflows with beloved books. But we had to pick.
So here are our favorites from 2018:
MEAGAN MASTERMAN’S PICKS
Quick Fix – Ctch Bsnss (Poetry)
Driving along the roads in my hometown, where once I embarrassed myself in front of many crushes, one after the other, all of us pimply-faced and dying from being looked at and dying from not being looked at enough, I remembered two lines from a poem in Quick Fix:
i want my appearance
to distract me from myself
Ctch Bsnss has been a long-time Reality Hands favorite. In fact, we put out her chapbook Fuck Me While My Phone Charges. As you might guess from that title, Ctch is a master of the darkly funny. It’s the humor of struggling to connect with others in a world that wants us to feel isolated and alone. Ctch’s work focuses on self-image, online dating, shame, and mental health. It’s all wry. It’s all worth your time and money. I promise.
Hum – Natalia Hero (Novella)
In one of my first memories of Natalia, she tells me about a short story wherein a woman stabs a terrible man. I knew at that moment that we would be friends. Some years later, I began to receive periodic updates about a novella she was writing called “Hum.” I waited in anticipation to read it and am happy to report it’s harrowing and unmissable.
In “Hum,” a woman is sexually assaulted. Immediately afterwards, she gives birth to a hummingbird. Laid low by trauma, she must find a way to take care of herself and the insistent, demanding bird. The narrator struggles with the visceral violation and the agonizing work of healing.
As a side note: This is a Metatron title. I can confidently recommend the entire Metatron catalog.
Sleepwalker – Lina Wu (Comics/Poetry)
I first came across Lina Wu this summer, when I read her collaborative zine “For Girls Who Cry Often” (2016). After some less-than-stellar events in my life, I was bummed and convinced that my life would be 100% better if only I could transform into the mythical “chill girl” who shrugs at everything and never gets upset. For many reasons, this was deeply, deeply, and completely stupid. This zine helped me realize that, with its exploration of the pressure women face to prioritize other people’s comfort over their wellbeing.
Sleepwalker (2018) uses a combination of poems and stories to explore this theme further. The plot is a modern twist on the story of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the moon who drank an immortality elixir meant for her husband, Yi. The elixir makes her float up to the moon, irreparably separating her from her former life. In Sleepwalker, she awakens in Toronto’s Chinatown and tries to regain her memory, orient herself in an unfamiliar world, and come to terms with the the end of her relationship with Yi.
Liz Bolduc – Aslan’s Ghost (Comics)
By one of Boston’s own, this autobiographical comic explores grief, attachment, guilt, and self-acceptance in a few compact pages. “Aslan’s Ghost” in a semi-non-linear tale about the passing of a beloved cat. With precision, Liz articulates intense emotional complexities. Not only is this clear in the text, but in vividly expressive drawings. Meaningful touches and pained faces. Did I tear up after reading this? You bet. Did I go through a photo album of pictures of my childhood dog? 100% true.
ROT #8 – Arthur Katrina
This pamphlet of mystic, political, and personal xerography is cut with poetry and prose. The most recent installment of this series was published in July–“SUMMER BABY”. Imagery and text is set against a black background of solid-printed ink. The religious sits with found objects. The melancholic sits with the life-affirming. Drenched in great drawings, check out their work at www.mbdx.life.
COLD CUBE #4 – Cold Cube Press
Cold Cube brings together some of the best artists and authors. The layout is impeccable and curation are impeccable. The printing, the binding, everything about this book achieves excellence. It’s the most elegant and impactful use of design in publishing this year. It’s a beautiful book.
No Glykon and Meagan Masterman co-edit the journal Reality Hands (realityhands.com + twitter.com/realityhands). Reality Hands and Pizza Pi Press are hosting Clouds and Other Louds Fest, a poetic arts festival. It runs April 27-28 at The Dorchester Art Project. If you’re a small press or journal interested in participating, drop us a line at email@example.com.