My dad loves to cook and he’s a bit of a mushroom fanatic so an online search for a unique holiday book led me here. And while I was there, I decided to look around a bit, as I’d never come across Pioneers Press before. And then I saw The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting The Big Motherfucking Sad by Adam Gnade. And I bought it.
The holidays are their own special, toxic mix of consumerism, hedonism and, let’s face it, absurdism. They also have a tendency to make me nostalgic and sad. So Adam’s self-described “anti-depression guide/guide to a freer, more lawless life” was the perfect find for me this month given how busy I’ve been.
The palm-sized pamphlet is organized into very short sections of “pep-talks” and point-by-point suggestions:
“DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME
1) with friends you don’t love. There’s a big difference between “love” and “know.”
2) with books you can’t give your heart to.
3) with bands that don’t write for you. (But beware of bands that sing about “us.” Their us is their us. I have my own us and so do you. See: “Universality and co-opted micro-culture/community as marketing strategy.”)
4) with people who are playing you for status or scene cred. Note: Don’t schmooze. Ever. Be good to the good of heart. Fuck the rest. You don’t need them. Your life is busy as it is. Don’t waste your time with creepy fame-vampires.
5) with the bandwagon jumpers.
6) with anyone who doesn’t make up their own mind about a cause.
7) with anything that doesn’t make you better in its presence.”
One thing I love about small press books is they remind you that the writer is a real human being. Adam sent me a wonderful, personal note along with the book. His gratitude for my purchase was heartfelt and palpable.
“DIY GUIDE TO KILLING OFF ALL BOREDOM
Go outside. Scream your name into The Void. Sit in the sun and feel godlike. Cook a nine-course meal for your friends. Ride a train. Ride a bus. Smash something important. Climb a tree and read a book. WRITE a book. Be sweet to a baby and let them know all big people aren’t a) dead inside, b) angry, or c) afraid of adventure. Make your own everything. Stay up all night and walk around the city alone. Learn that you can be a patriot for the land while still hating the government (be a patriot for the deserts, the plains, the mountains, the buffalo, for Woody Guthrie and Frederick Douglas, for 250 years of good books). Find the best genius, which is the genius that speaks plainly. Grow something from a seed. Talk to a dog. Go visit a friend and throw your knife into a river. Sing. Sleep in. Quit your job. Make a zine. Start a war within yourself. Destroy all uncandid thought. Open your heart to the sky. Live.”
I like what Adam has to say about friends:
“I choose to stay here because I’m given reasons. Now, a lot of those reasons are mine, they’re private reasons, but here’s a reason I’ll share: the good people. The ones closest to my heart and the people who show me how to fight and remind me that there’s an option that outweighs the coward’s path. You can be a hermit and you can be an island, but when the paint gets stripped away, we are what we build up around us. We are the sum of our actions, our chosen environment, our loves, our pleasures. So, count on your friends. Have faith in your friends. Never let them forget that sometimes—in the worst, darkest, most fucked moments when the whole gale is howling around you—they are what keeps you here—alive and fighting.”
I bought more copies of the book and sent them to friends as holiday gifts. Adam wrote me another note. And he sent me a t-shirt and some buttons. I also bought his new novel.
The New York Times continues its small press shout-outs with A Strange Object.
Want to give the gift of a book that has not appeared on one of the hundreds of mainstream “best of” lists? Check out SPD Books, a non-profit distributor of small press literary books. Powell’s Books is also a wonderful resource. And don’t forget your local, independent bookseller.
Here’s an easy gift idea: think about something you read this year that you loved and reach out to thank the author personally. As a writer, you can’t imagine how nice it is to know that someone has been touched by your work.
Words have power. They celebrate, they sustain, they heal. Joe Ponepinto, one of the writers I follow on social media, posted this to his blog last week:
“A few weeks back I wrote about my friend Jon Zech, whose cancer has him stuck in bed with little hope of recovery. I wanted to update readers on a couple of developments.
First, Jon is much more comfortable these days. The docs have finally got the meds right so he can function without the incredible pain of the disease pressing against his spine.
I had also mentioned that Jon wrote for thirty years without seriously pursuing publication, even though much of what he wrote could have been published. Our local writers groups are taking care of that too. We came together and realized that among us, we had the skills to produce our own books (some of us have started a small business to provide that service). In addition to being writers and editors, several among us are graphic designers, cover artists and proofreaders.
So a project was born. Fortunately Jon had most of his writing in digital form. We asked for a copy. Members of the group perused each file to determine which were complete stories and which weren’t. Then we created a logical order. We edited. We created a layout. We designed a cover. We proofread.
A month later we have Sparks, a collection of Jon Zech’s work, a 366-page compendium of stories, poetry, and an unfinished novel. It went up for sale on Amazon this week and the response has been tremendous. We even produced a hardcover version just for Jon that includes his novel, Buck & Tangee. That one weighs in at 536 pages, and is a testament to a writer’s life.
The idea of writers as aloof, self-centered artists isn’t always accurate. We usually work alone, but when we have a good cause we can come together as well as any other group. The proof is in this book. I hope you’ll take a look.”
If that’s not what the holiday spirit is all about, then I don’t know what is.
I’ll be back in January. Until then I wish you peace, happiness and lots of time to read.