Dumpster Diving for Zines: An interview with Jesse Reklaw

applicant zine cover jesse reklaw author photo LOVF book cover the artist at work

One of our oldest, cutest, funniest books is Applicant. Originally a zine that made the transition to bookdom after it sold gazillions of copies to guffawing survivors of the academic industrial complex. Creator Jesse Reklaw found a pile of old applications in the trash behind a major university, complete with photos of the applicants. He paired these photos with choice, typed comments made by the evaluating committee. And ohhh it was painful. The only other thing I’ve seen quite like it is the sadly now-defunct “Nice Guys of OK Cupid” blog. But in this case, we relate to the derided applicants and are angry at the smug, faceless judges that once, long ago determined their fates.

Reklaw, who has a new book coming out soon, answered some questions over email many years after the fact.

1. Applicant is one of our earliest books, and it still holds up painfully, hilariously well. Did any of the applicants pictured ever contact you? Do you get guilty emails from interviewers wanting to confess their application commentary sins?
Man, I wish I’d get guilty, confessional emails! How do I arrange that? I have earnestly tried not to connect with anyone pictured in Applicant; because I am afraid of getting sued. In fact, I recycled all the original files and deleted the names of the people from my computer (maybe also because I know I am a born stalker, and I did not want the temptation around). I do know a woman who got her Ph.D. in neuroscience from one of the future professors pictured in that book; she said he was a good guy. But still.

2. You’ve done a bunch of different kinds of books… mostly comics. Do you have a favorite genre or type or style or topic?
Yes, comics is my main thing. Applicant was kind of a fluke for me, inspired by my interest in zine culture. I actually made the whole thing in the summer of 1998, after I dropped out of grad school. In some ways I think of Applicant as my Meta Masters Thesis: my critique of grad school culture and what was for me a better alternative (dumpster diving). I have always preferred personal, raw, independent voices in publishing. So regarding comics, I’ve read a lot of autobio, graphic novel memoirs, and diary comics. Lynda Barry and John Porcellino are two of my heroes. I also like well-crafted comics fiction, usually on the oddball side.

3. What have you read or seen recently that inspired you the most?
I realized a couple years ago that I have failed to read very much fiction by women, so this year I’m trying to correct that. I’ve been quite inspired by Virginia Woolf. I try to keep up with comics (“graphic novels”) too. Three recent favorites that come to mind are Beautiful Darkness by Kerascoët, By This Shall You Know Him by Jesse Jacobs, and Arsène Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen.

4. What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?
I just finished making a travel diary / sketchbook / graphic novel called LOVF, that will be released from Fantagraphics Books in July this year. This book evolved from a notebook I had with me during a manic phase, and it’s dripping with intricate, intense, and confusing drawings. After I got better (?), I added a narrative so it kind of tells the story of my “vision quest” as a homeless crazy man. I’m excited and terrified to go on tour to promote this book.


Find Applicant here!

New April Books! Mama Tried, Urban Revolutions, Velocipede Races, and Beverly Cleary’s Birthday!

Walking with RamonaToday is April 12th, which means a lot more to us this year than it usually would. First of all, today is Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday! We worked hard all winter to get our new book Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland to print in time for the occasion, and we’re so pleased with how it turned out. The author, Laura O. Foster, has a wonderful essay up on the Powell’s blog today, and also supplied several facts for the CBC’s 100-fact roundup for the occasion.

The weird thing about publishing, though, is that while that book exists (and you can snag a copy on our website), it doesn’t technically come out until its official October publication date.

We do have three other books that have been printed for a while now that DO technically come out today, April 12, 2016, and we want to celebrate those books’ proper birthdays here. Let us present Microcosm’s all-star April lineup!

Mama Tried: Traditional Italian Cooking for the Screwed, Crude, Vegan & Tattooed by Cecilia Granata

Cecilia Granata’s vegan takes on the authentic Italian food she grew up with will excite your taste buds while her flash tattoo art will make your skin prickle in anticipation of your next tattoo. Read more about her book here.

Urban Revolutions: A Woman’s Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation by Emilie Bahr

Emilie Bahr is an urban planner, a city cyclist, and a proud Louisianan. She wrote this book to help introduce a friend to the joys of transportation cycling, and to share her professional knowledge and passion for the worldwide urban bicycling revolution. Fun fact; our designer started bicycling *while* working on layout for this book. Read more from the author here.

Urban Revolutions: A Woman's Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation from Microcosm Publishing on Vimeo.

The Velocipede Races a novel by Emily June Street

A page turning coming-of-age novel, set in an alternate, Victorian-ish universe where boys ride bicycles and girls wear corsets. Our heroine Emmeline tries to break the mold and has a series of unexpected adventures. The first novel in our Bikes in Space line! Read our interview with the author here.

The Velocipede Races Book Trailer from Microcosm Publishing on Vimeo.

Business of Publishing: Books we Love and Recommend

One of the best parts of working in publishing is that there is always something new to learn. Where do we learn it? From books, of course.

Here’s a list of some of the books that have been most helpful to Microcosm workers recently, and that we recommend to you, aspiring publisher / editor / writer / designer / production manager / roller-arounder-in-books. We added a couple in that we published, too.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. We’d love to hear your recommendations!

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead book coverHow to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead by Ariel Gore
This book rules. If you want to write or publish books, read this first. Ariel Gore shows you how to write, publish, and promote what matters to you, and how to build a readership from the ground up. If you want to get into writing or publishing is a get-rich-quick scheme, there are other books about that; this one shows you how to do it because you have a vision to make something meaningful. Full of golden advice from someone who’s done it—and is still doing it—successfully.


make a zine book cover by joe biel and bill brentMake a Zine by Joe Biel and Bill Brent
We always recommend that would-be publishers start small—make something yourself that you passionately believe in, learn the trade, and start building a network and a movement before you get mixed up with Amazon, trade distributors or doing any kind of business at scale. This book contains a wealth of information for publishing a zine, comic, or book yourself, with real knowledge about everything from acquisitions to production to marketing.


Wired for Story by Lisa Cron book coverWired for Story by Lisa Cron
One of our authors recommended this book, and we in turn recommend it to you! The sad truth is that it doesn’t matter how good your writing is if you can’t captivate readers’ attention on every page. Lisa Cron shows you the neuroscience of story, and it’s invaluable. This book is great for writers, editors, and anyone doing title development, aka the publisher.


On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Learning how to tell a compelling story is essential for getting anyone to read that story… actually writing it well is still important for other reasons. William Zinsser is one of the best guides as you learn that part of your craft, as a writer or editor.


The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
This is the best book we’ve found about what it’s *like* to be an editor. Which is almost as important, if not more important, than the nuts and bolts of learning how to edit. Betsy Lerner has worked in a number of different New York publishing houses and shares stories and knowledge and her valuable experience. If you are an editor, work with one, or want to be one, you’ll glean a lot from reading this.


Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
If you plan to have anything to do with visual storytelling—comics, picture books, art books, whatever—this guide (in comics form, of course) is very helpful for understanding how to visually tell a story.


Getting Things Done book coverGetting Things Done by David Allen
People go into publishing because they love books; the reality is that you spend a lot of time with data, spreadsheets, contracts, budgets, production schedules, inventory, software, email, and a gazillion little tasks, each of which is vitally important and intricately relies on many other things being done right. It can all get to be overwhelming, especially if you’re a one-person publishing shop. GTD is the gold standard for organizing your complicated life without succumbing to stress or losing sight of the big picture.


Beyond Dealmaking by Melanie Billings-Yun
Another thing most people learn after launching their publishing career rather than before is that much of the job is about negotiating—contracts, relationships, deliveries, solutions, whatever. There isn’t a lot of abundance in the industry, and people are often in it for very different reasons and with very different expectations. This is hands-down the best book on negotiation that we’ve found, and will teach you real and practical skills for building lasting, sustainable relationships beyond just closing the deal.


Publishing for Profit by Thomas Woll
This book is dense and tough to read. The slog is worth it if you’re serious about publishing as a business, and if you need that business to make money. The best time to read this book is when you have already been doing the work, have some books under your belt, and are starting to wonder if you’re ready for trade distribution and/or to hire a second person.


our band could be your life book coverOur Band Could be Your Life by Michael Azerrad
Wait, what? This is a history of underground and punk music in the 80s and 90s, not a publishing manual! Actually… this is also very much a book about how to launch a scrappy, ragtag business all the way to the moon, be you a drunk and angry drummer touring in a filthy van or a teenager in your bedroom with a big dream and a cassette duplicator. Microcosm is built on similar foundations, guided much more by the DIY music industry than the book publishing world, and this book can profitably be read as a fascinating case study of businesses run—some more successfully than others—entirely without traditional resources like capital or training, but with no shortage of values, creativity, and pure energy and rage.


good trouble book coverGood Trouble by Joe Biel
Microcosm founder and publisher Joe Biel’s memoir can be read through several lenses, and one of them is small press business manual. The company’s often bumpy, sometimes glorious, always edifying history can be found in these pages, along with background on some of the stuff that makes the gears turn—contracts, management, strategy, accounting, proofreading, and more. And if we do say so ourselves, it’s also an excellent example of reader-oriented development, which is what any memoir published today needs beyond all other qualities.


And don’t forget you can read our Business of Publishing blog series right now, without waiting for our store to open or your book to come in the mail.

Indie Bookstore Love: Boneshaker Books in Minneapolis!

boneshaker-signOur indie bookstore crush for the month of April is on Minneapolis’s one-and-only all-volunteer bookstore collective, Boneshaker Books. Walking into Boneshaker is an amazing experience—a friendly person greets you, and you’re surrounded by a selection of books, each one of which was obviously chosen because someone passionately wants you to read it, not because of sales metrics. Even the way the sections are selected is thoughtful and eye-opening. For instance, most bookstores have a separate sections for African American and Native American histories… in Boneshaker, those are both just plain American History, and make up the bulk of that section. Chances are a volunteer worker will make you feel right at home, leaving you alone to browse if that’s what you prefer or engaging in a spirited discussion of the ethics and techniques of writing fiction, if that’s up your alley.

The collective is putting up a Microcosm books display this month to celebrate our shared history and values (pics coming once that happens!), and they also took the time to answer a few questions for us.

1. What is the history of Boneshaker Books?
After longtime Minneapolis radical bookstore Arise! closed in 2010, a group of former volunteers decided that there was still a need for an all-volunteer community bookstore—and, that if done thoughtfully, it could be successful and self-sustaining. Our original crew had an extremely diverse skill set that included a professional fundraiser, a carpenter, an artisanal iron worker, and a web developer, and we leveraged those skills as much as possible.

boneshaker-attitudeAlong with the usual Kickstarter and benefit events, we came up with a unique fundraising plan: every donor of $250 or more could pick a book title that we would stock forever. So not only did we build a strong donor base, but they literally built the foundation (or skeleton) of our collection. We like to say that every book in the store is there because someone—donor or volunteer—loves it.

We intended to open in the old Arise! Bookstore building, but it fell through for a few reasons, mostly due to money. After contacting some neighborhood groups, we found an odd space in the back of a quirky building in the Seward neighborhood, near our friends at the Seward Cafe. It turned out to be a perfectly magical fit. We were also able to share the space with our friends at the Women’s Prison Book Project who distribute books to women and transgender persons in prisons.

After a year of writing business plans, fundraising, building beautiful custom bookshelves, and making dreamy book lists, we opened in January of 2011. Over the last five years, we’ve sold thousands of books, hosted hundreds of events, meetings and book clubs, and thrived with the support of countless volunteers and patrons. It’s been a wild ride, and we look forward to the adventures the next five bring.

2. A boneshaker is a Victorian-era bicycle; we too love the combination of books and bicycles. How did you choose the name and what do bikes + books mean to you?
So one of the ideas that we included in our vision of Boneshaker Books from our earliest collective meetings was to offer a free bike delivery service for special orders. Many of our founding collective members rode their bikes for transportation already, and it just seemed like a natural addition to our store. So as we discussed that intersection of interests, we gravitated towards a bike/book name.

And as we thought more about that combination, we thought about the ideological similarities between riding bikes and reading books. Today, neither of those things is seen as essential to enjoying your life—but anyone who rides a bike or reads a book will tell you how empowering those activities are! How they are essential to so many of us!

Riding a boneshaker bike is also a really jarring experience, which we think describes our inventory pretty well. We carry books that rattle your core, and the name Boneshaker Books fits that perfectly.

boneshaker-staff3. What’s your favorite (or the most popular) Microcosm book in your store? How about any book at all?
So this might be a little biased, but our favorite Microcosm book is Fire and Ice by Joshua Ploeg. In 2012 we were hosting a Valentine’s Day fund raising dinner—and maybe not surprisingly, we don’t have a ton of experience catering gigantic dinners. But it turned out that Joshua was going to be in Minneapolis that night, so we reached out and asked for his help.

And he pulled through in such a huge way! He helped us make the most incredible vegan dinner, with, like, Husker Du themed foods! And then one of his fans showed up, this awesome vegan chef from Minneapolis, and she cooked a ton of delicious food with us, too. It was just this totally overwhelming experience, and it still stands as our most successful fund raiser ever, four years later.

Fire and Ice happens to be our best selling Microcosm title too—which is nice.

4. You’ve been around through some major ups and downs in the book business. Has being a volunteer-run collective helped get you through that or given you a different perspective than a for-profit bookstore might have? What do you hope happens next?
At any given time we have over 40 active volunteers, and sometimes that number goes up to 60. That means every day there are between 40 and 60 people who are contributing ideas, recommending books, organizing events, and making Boneshaker Books a better community book store.

So that’s probably the biggest perspective-shift between Boneshaker and a for-profit bookstore. We have more ideas coming in, we have a more diverse set of stake holders, and—as volunteers—we’re less dictated by making stacks of cash. We need to pay rent every month, but other than that, we don’t have nearly as many expenses as a traditional bookstore—and that lets us take risks with our inventory that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Our next big hopes are to expand our bicycle delivery service to include a dedicated bike trailer stocked for events, and we’re dipping our feet into online sales. Maybe.

Visit Boneshaker Books every day from 11 to 8 at 2002 23rd Ave S in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota! And thank you for supporting independent bookstores!

Vegan Italian Tattoo: An interview with Mama Tried author/artist Cecilia Granata

photo of cecilia granata drawingFor the longest time, Vegan Italian Tattoo was the working title of Cecilia Granata’s gorgeously illustrated cookbook of Italian classics made vegan. The final name of the book, Mama Tried: Traditional Italian Classics for the Screwed, Crude, Vegan, and Tattooed was a team effort, the rare collaborative title that really works. The end result is a spirited, fun cookbook that teaches you to cook real Italian food, cruelty-free. The book comes out officially in April, and the author took a break from her other work—including painting and tattooing—and answered some questions for the occasion:

1. Mama Tried combines vegan recipes with tattoo flash art. What gave you the idea to combine food and tattoos? What is the creative connection between them for you?
Originally the illustrations weren’t tattoo flash but regular drawings; at some point during the development of this project, I noticed how many carrots and broccoli tattoos I was getting to do at work. Because I was positioning myself as a Vegan Tattoo Artist, more and more people were interested in getting their animal rights piece done by me. I came to realize that these 2 worlds, tattoos and Veganism, are closer that it might seem, and decided to exploit this cute combo.

I think the edgy style of tattoos is able to convey a fresh appeal to the strong message of Veganism.

cecilia granata holding her hands in a heart shape2. Do you have a favorite recipe in the book? What do you most like to cook for special occasions? What do you eat when you’re tired and don’t have a lot of energy to make a fancy meal?
I think my favorite is Risotto giallo, or Risotto alla Milanese, just because it was the special thing that my grandma would make when I visited her; it’s one of the most typical dishes of the area where she lives. Also because I love saffron, which not only makes anything delicious but also fantastic to look at with all those shades of gold.

For special occasions I guess it depends on what’s the occasion and what season it is in…let’s just say that there is gonna be a lot of food: definitely few appetizers, a first and second course, fruits, dessert(s), coffee, and what we call “ammazzacaffe”, or “coffee killer”, which is usually a bitter liqueur or a sweeter one like limoncello.

When I need to eat in less than 5 minutes, I usually make an omelette with chickpeas flour: it’s quick, easy, delicious, nutritionally complete and I can just use whatever I have in the fridge right away, even if it’s just an onion.

cecilia granata mid-tattoo3. Do you have a favorite tattoo or type of tattoo that you do?
I have a pretty eclectic taste in general and tattoos don’t make an exception. I don’t like being stuck on one specific style or subject because I get bored easily and I also get psyched easily. If I had to pick, I guess I can never go wrong with animals, especially furry ones, mermaids or fancy lettering. I also enjoy silly tattoos and anything weird or grotesque. I am definitely not into geometrical or tribal tattoos because I have no patience, which is fundamental for such precise works.

4. What creative project is coming up next for you?
I am working on few different projects in parallel: a children’s book about the Devil, which as you can imagine, will probably never be published. I am also co-writing and drawing a book of Yoga for Kids with a very talented friend. And finally, but not really since I keep embracing new ideas, I am on this lifelong project of feminist tarots with another dear friend.

This has been an interview with Cecilia Granata, author of the vegan cookbook Mama Tried

NOW HIRING: Part Time Illustrator / Designer

A new friend

Microcosm Publishing is an independent publisher of nonfiction books in Portland, Ore that has been chugging along for over 20 years. We’re small, flexible, data-driven, resourceful, and scrappy. Microcosm emphasizes skill-building, showing hidden histories, fostering creativity, and challenging conventional publishing wisdom with books and bookettes about DIY skills, food, zines, and art.

 

We are seeking a new person to design book covers, illustrate interiors, create ePub files from Indesign, and create the visual feeling for our ethics, subject matter, and all things empowerment! We’re looking for someone who is an enthusiastic fan, an avid consumer of media, and can tell the reader what the book is about just by gazing upon its cover.

 

You’ll often be working independently and should be self-motivated, able to work within a team, creative, and know when to ask for help or clarification.

 

Qualities of the ideal candidate:

Basic computer skills; plus Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

Follows directions and gets each job done right the first time.

Creative thinker

Understands a visual way to tell a story

Works well with others

A diversity of styles so that every project does not share aesthetic qualities

Can accommodate people with special needs

Sense of humor.

 

Cultural knowledge and a progressive outlook help—it’s best to know your DC hardcore from your NYHC and a Cometbus from the city bus. Is there a vegan cookbook next to a pile of zines on your shelf (you have a bookshelf, right?)? Is a bicycle a freedom machine or a death trap? What would make a book of feminist science fiction even better? (Answer: zombies. And bicycles.)

 

Big Picture Thinking is very necessary here to see the forest through the trees to create the right look for each project, even if it’s not always the most beautiful work of art.

 

Creativity! But also efficiency and a willingness to do the leg work. For every brilliant idea, there’s a ton of follow-through required.

 

We’re hardworking and really value the work that we do. And maybe most importantly, we’re a small company working towards a common goal. We believe in what we do and need you to do the same. We are growing and want someone who will commit to growing with us.

 

We are based in Portland but you can work from our office or from home, even if that’s in another state.

 

Position is part time and pay is based on experience and efficiency.

 

Benefits include: Joy, fun coworkers, satisfaction of doing life-changing work, snacks.
To apply: Please write a cover letter about your background and interests and send over samples of both your design and illustration work. Submit by mail or our website form, using the “Send us a note” function here, and selecting “Other Questions.” We will confirm receipt of all applications.

 

We are accepting applications until May 1. Interview finalists will be hired to do one paid job for us and then one person will be offered the position. People of color are particularly encouraged to submit as are anyone whose experiences are not represented in the publishing world in general.

Daily Cosmonaut #18: Artifacts of Hood River

IMG_0625On a rainy day in the year 2000 I received a phone call from a man desperately trying to convince me to let him come visit Microcosm’s warehouse. Microcosm’s warehouse at the time was a 12×6’ room in the basement of my home and doubled as my office. A little nervous, I agreed but made him wait in my living room while I grabbed everything. It would be difficult for both of us to fit in the Microcosm room without first removing my desk. Tom bought over 90% of the zines and books that I had in stock. He also asked about many things that I was sold out of. I had to literally reorder everything that week.

 

I figured that I’d never hear from him again but a month later he called, asking to come back. This time I let him join me in the Microcosm room. Despite being 6’7”, Tom did not bat an eye at having to crouch under the ceiling that I had built to be exactly 6’4” over my head, so I would only have to dodge the bare light bulbs. Tom again bought almost everything and this cycle continues sixteen years later. Only now he visits our store weekly and still leaves a lack of books in his wake.

 

You see, Tom refuses to use the Internet. Hell, he refuses to even look at a screen. He lives in a cabin in the woods without electricity or running water. His neighbor criticizes him for having a store-bought plastic cooler. Even as modern books couting has evolved into an Internet hunt, Tom has remained refreshingly analog, just like books. He claims that even Aaron Cometbus, a longtime holdout against using computers, finally gave in and expresses regret to Tom for doing so.

Tom is clearly inspired by the book hunt and his built a weekly routine of coming into the city every Wednesday and buying books. He constantly sends customers our way for an “authentic Portland experience” and brings us freshly picked huckleberries from the woods. Tom’s ethics and routines are a firm reminder of why we do the things that we do at Microcosm: to create resources for people who don’t have access to them otherwise so they can change their lives for the better. And while his bookstore, Artifacts in Hood River, has gradually been treated more and more like a gift shoppe for windsurfing tourists, we can still achieve our missions together. Perhaps it’s the perfect irony that Tom will never be able to read this love note.

Rampant Media Consumption! First 2016 edition

My Career as a Jerk movie cover art You all kept us busy the last three months! Normally things quiet way down after the holidays and by the beginning of February we’re left cleaning the office, catching up on administrative projects and long-term editorial stuff, and strategizing about the future. Not this year! We’ve been slammed with orders and with editorial work on exciting new books, and it’s been fabulous. As a result, though, it’s been a while since anyone had a minute to consume any media, much less report on it, much less blog about it.

We finally found a sec, though. So… here’s what we’ve been taking in!

Cyn

I’ve been listening to Halsey and Marian Hill on repeat.

I caught up on the new season of Agent Carter—it’s a little more kitschy than last season, but fun anyway, and still well done.

In my favorite kind of news, Jessica Jones got picked up for a second season! I mean, of course it did, because it’s amazing, but it’s good to know.

I also finished listening to the audio book of Gone Girl. I wasn’t excited to read it because it seemed over-hyped, but I actually ​*loved*​ it, and actually hate that I saw the movie first and ruined the twist, because it probably would have blown me away. Also, I think Amy Elliot Dunne might be my gender-politics spirit animal.

This month I’ve been obsessed with watching 360 degree videos. Guyz, this is the future of technology. Check out this one or this one (it’s better if you’re using a mobile device). (ps. if you don’t know how it works, just click anywhere on the video and drag)

In not-360 obsession, one of my favorite songs got an amazing music video, although for the full effect you should listen to the song first, ​thenwatch the video.

Taylor

Read: Libra by Don Delillo
Listened to: The Serial podcast

Elly

I reread Blake Nelson’s Girl, which I vividly remember finding at the library as a teenager. It totally holds up. Oh the 90s. I read up about the book’s history… it was serialized in Sassy, but first published as an adult novel because all the sex wasn’t deemed appropriate for teenagers. It wasn’t published as young adult until the late 2000s, when I guess the publishing world was ready to admit that teenagers have sex. It was interesting to watch the price fluctuate as well — in 1995 the adult fiction trade paperback was $14, but the YA reissue in 2007 was $11. If it came out today, it would have to be $9.95. And that is the story of how my nostalgic weekend reading turned into a work research project. Not to mention the story of our economy.

Thea

  • Found and liked: http://gatosaurio.com/
  • Watched the new XFiles and Louis C.K.’s “Horace & Pete”
  • It had to happen, a Walking Dead coloring book

    Joe

    My Career as a Jerk​ by Dave Markey​
    While mostly fascinating as a way of tracing the evolving fashion and motivations of the Circle Jerks as they struggle to ​remember their relevance in a changing world, this documentary is my favorite work by Markey (The Year Punk Broke). While most LA bands of the late 70s and early 80s broke up or went “crossover”​ metal​ by 1986, the Circle Jerks tried to stay their course…but never seemed quite sure what that was as they lost key musicians Roger Rogerson and Lucky Lehrer. Mostly memorable for footage of a​ 46​-year-old Greg Hetson dressed in Warped​-​Tour​-style​ ​baggy shorts and pulled up gym socks next to the ever-increasing lengths of Keith Morris’ dreadlocks ​as they ​threaten​ed to touch the floor​ while the band dropped staccato rhythms in favor of a slower hard punk style​. It feels like​ even when​ they can’t quite recall what they were angry about 30 years prior​ that the feelings remain in full force.

    ​Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
    As frustrating to read as it is informative, this is a look into one reporter’s life in Detroit as he tries to nail the mayor, city councilwoman, and various public service departments. There were numerous times where I wanted to throw the book against the wall in disgust: when he assaults his wife, when he makes fun of retarded people, his various awkward racial stereotypes, extensive stories about his own life that are pointless to the reader or narrative, and how he will tell you everyone’s race (unless they’re white) even when it does nothing to advance the narrative or fill in details about that character. Nonetheless, I powered through for the information. While much of the book seems committed to responding to the various criticisms of his work and leaving out details at times convenient to serving his story, it provides enough back and inside story about Detroit to understand how things reached the point of bankruptcy, destitution, and auto bailouts. I only wish that I could leave LeDuff behind and keep his reporting.

    The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
    While this book cannot hold a candle to Jon’s editorial masterpiece So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, it’s an illuminating look into the world of psychology and how little science really exists within it. In his classic style, Ronson befriends character after character, both those who work deep within the system and those who have been wronged by it. While my experiences with psychology have been mostly pleasant and I’ve had little reason to give it the side eye, looking at its limitations is always educational and informs action. While Ronson has a great way of making even the most serious subjects read as funny anecdotes, it never takes away from the actual substance of his message and what he has to get across to the reader.

  • Now recruiting: Spread the Teenage Rebellion!

    Spread the teenage rebellion!

    A postcard urging you to spread the Teenage Rebellion!
    Did you know that the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court case was partially based on a student walk-out in Virginia? Or that 30,000 New York high school students went on strike for a week in 1950, marching on city hall each day to demand raises for their teachers? Or that high school students around the US regularly counter-protest (and troll) the Westboro Baptists?

    These are just a few of the stories in Dawson Barrett’s Teenage Rebels, a book of 1-page historical vignettes about teens who rallied around the causes that were important to them, created their own destinies, and changed the world!

    I know what you’re thinking – “I wish I had had a book like that when I was a teen, but now I’m grown.” Well, good news, Microcosm is making it easier to get just such a book into the hands of those who could use it.

    To help spread the rebellion, we’ve created bookplates, so you can easily donate a copy to your favorite teacher, your local library, or a teenage rebel!

    (Or, if you can’t think of anyone specific, we can help).

    To go for it, buy a copy of the book, using your own billing address and the shipping address of the person or organization you want it to go to.

    Just be sure to let us know in the order notes what you want us to write in the “To:” and (donated) “By:” fields in the bookplate.

    Thanks for spreading the rebellion!

    Daily Cosmonaut #17: Coloring Books To Challenge Paradigm

    coloringIt’s estimated that last year adult coloring books added $50M to publishing industry sales, creating a record sales year. But Microcosm sort of operates like that island in Lost where we hear only infrequent communications from the mainland and happily can focus on the kinds of things we want to say to the world rather than responding to every peculiar news cycle. And one day, under those conditions, we realized that the Cunt Coloring Book was constantly out of stock so we decided to produce The Vulva Coloring Book to be more factually accurate but also because the former was over 40 years old.

     

    Naturally, within a few weeks Elly had the idea to add post-structuralist theory to the book and it became The Post-Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book. Slowly, as we learned about the huge adult coloring book trend, the book became a way to challenge gender stereotypes and make commentary about how women are shamed about their bodies in so many ways and it can often be difficult to discuss these things.
    The book slowly became (as far as I understand it) a way to make fun of the inherent meaninglessness of post-structuralism in a way that could read as “authentic” to people who were actually familiar with it while challenging people’s conceptions of bodies and gender. And for once we happen to be synched up with the trends to get a few more inches on our agenda with this book!