Brevity's Playground 

Scout Books + Future Tense = Pocket-Sized Quick Reads

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A FEW WEEKS BACK, we reported on the first book of poems in a series to be jointly released by local publishers Tin House and Octopus Books, and now the local literary cross-pollination continues: independent press Future Tense Books has combined forces with tiny-book-makers Scout Books to produce a series of pocket-sized quick reads.

The collaboration makes a lot of sense. Scout Books specializes in size: 32-page, 3.5" x 5" blank notebooks and various projects utilizing those standardized dimensions, like their illustrated makeovers of literary classics or their palm-sized collections of cocktail recipes. Meanwhile, Future Tense has a decades-strong reputation as a publisher invested in experimentation and new voices, willing to take risks like Gary Lutz's A Partial List of People to Bleach or Jamie Iredell's The Book of Freaks—seamlessly moving between collections of poems and short stories, scrappy chapbooks and perfect-bound full-lengths.

A publisher with Future Tense's versatility has the right personality to explore Scout Books' standard print dimensions, to make a playground of brevity.

Out of the three chapbooks released to kick off the new series, Sommer Browning's The Presidents (and Other Jokes) feels like the most appropriate fit for the Scout Book format. The Presidents starts with one-liners about each of the 44 US presidents—for example, "They had to impeach Andrew Johnson twice before he agreed to change Extreme National Makeover to The Reconstruction"—while the second half of the book presents a laundry list of non sequitur wisecracks and tweet-length observations: "Cemeteries are full of has beens," or, "Hard to believe G.G. Allin and my grandmother were the same species." Throughout are illustrations and drawings by the author and her sister, Casey Browning.

Where The Presidents can feel a bit like the digital world creeping into the analog, local artist Melody Owen's Dream Journals: When I Was Nineteen, I Was an Old Man has a pre-internet feel: composed of "dreams, memories and collages... taken from her journals circa 1989-2000," Dream Journals recalls a time when journaling was not a social activity, but a private record of the self. Owen's writings capture the fast-motion tectonic shifts of the subconscious, incorporating collages of dragonfly wings sprouting from lengths of firewood, or milkmen stalked by giant, murderous squirrels.

Perhaps the most traditional literary outing of the inaugural Future Tense-Scout Books releases, Aaron Gilbreath's A Secondary Landscape details a road trip through the Pacific Northwest that the author took with a close male friend at age 20. A buddy story, Secondary Landscape asks the big questions: Why are we here? How are we to understand ourselves in an indifferent universe? What, if anything, is the meaning of all this? Gilbreath searches for answers via drugs and nature, mysticism and observation—but after helping a schizophrenic woman evade imaginary assailants and partaking in some gnarly-sounding PCP experimentation, Gilbreath discovers the relationship between enlightenment and self-destruction, truth and distortion.

These new Future Tense titles will be celebrated this Saturday, April 13 at 7 pm at the Independent Publishing Resource Center with readings by the authors and intros from Future Tense's Kevin Sampsell and Bryan Coffelt. It's free, and there will be drinks!

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