poor yorick! soft skull closes its ny doors

soft skull in its peripatetic two decades in nyc went through several upheavals and sometimes was more of a brand than a consistent editorial philosophy. but throughout they were risk takers of a very necessary kind. among other things, they published some of the smarter fiction of the recent past, including authors david ohle, lynne tillman, eileen myles, lydia millet, wayne koestenbaum, and michael muhammad knight. sad to see them go.

cover story of the NY Press reports:

While it might not be the end of Soft Skull altogether, by leaving New York, the press will never be the same. After all, Soft Skull is the quintessential New York City indie press. Born in a Greenwich Village copy shop in the early ’90s, a birth that reeks of Reality Bites-style angst and passion in a still-affordable Manhattan where poets, musicians and anarchists ran amok, the press published progressive books and wasn’t afraid to get dirty.

and the NY Observer quotes a critical Nash:

In an interview, Mr. Nash praised Ms. Oswald’s efforts at Soft Skull and placed the blame for the closing of the New York office on what he said was Counterpoint’s insufficient commitment to publicity and marketing.

“Anne and Denise were acquiring books that exemplified the Soft Skull spirit,” Mr. Nash said. “But another part of the Soft Skull spirit is the drum banging, and their books weren’t getting the drum beat hard enough for them.”

THE TAQWACORES by michael muhammad knight

in this interview author knight says he’s continued to identify as muslim because he’d “rather be in the mosque urinating out than outside the mosque urinating in.” and that delicate preference gives the book its permission and power to radically deal with islam.

it’s done through the lens of punk rock (or, as the book likes to spell it: punk rawk!) wherein your humble narrator is a nerdy engineering student reporting on the (d)evolving escapades of a muslim punk house–where the living room goes, for example on friday night, from ju’mah to all-ages show almost before you can say oi!

knights uses the two religious questions — what is punk? and what is islam? — to riotous and appropriately scandalous effect. the cast list could make you think it’s just easy mashup — burqua-clad riot grrrls, mohawked imams, liwaticore — but knight handles all of it with a soft-touch authenticity, all the more remarkable for the fact that the taqwacore punk scene came AFTER he wrote the book. details on that here:

here’s a bit early on where the book’s hero tries to sort out the mess:

“Bro, listen,” said Jehangir. “They were Muslims, man, but not your uncles. They need a deen that’s not your uncle’s deen. Iman, think about it like that, iman! It’s supposed to be all about having no fear of death, right? And we got that part down, we’ve done that and we have plenty of Muslims who aren’t afraid to die. Mash’Allah–but now Muslims are afraid to fuckin’ live! They fear life, yakee, more than they fear shaytans or shirk or fitna or bid’a or kafr or qiyamah or the torments in the grave, they fear Life… You got all these poor kids who think they’re inferior because they don’t get their two Fajr in, their four Zuhr, four Asr… they don’t have beards, they don’t wear hejab, maybe they went to their fuckin’ high school proms and the only masjid around was regular horsehit-horseshit-takbir-masjid and they had to pretend like they were doing everything right…well I say fuck that and this whole house says fuck that — even Umar, you think Umar can go in a regular masjid with all his stupid tattoos and dumb straghtedge bands? Even Umar, bro, as much as he tries to Wahabbi-hard-ass his way around here, he’s still one of us. He’s still fuckin’ taqwacore — ” (41)

who woulda thought you could still write a punk novel? granted it’s not a punk novel like kathy acker or mark amerika’s THE KAFKA CHRONICLES. it’s not in other words a novel iconoclastic in form. but it does try to be iconoclastic in content — and knight’s take on islam does seem pretty radical.

a genius raconteur, he obviously cares about this world and its characters enough to make them seem real, to make the scene seem possible. the book succeeds because that care gives it a sweetness and integrity that’s very charismatic — plus the book has a real outrageousness that’s both rare and powerful. give it a whirl.

buy the book. find it at the library.

(c) 2017 . . . | powered by WordPress with Barecity
  • RSS RSS Feed
  • Atom