The perfect place to keep Sleepingfish 8 is on the top of the toilet tank. That sounds like an insult but it’s not.
Avant garde fiction, experimental fiction, fucking weird fiction, whatever you want to call it, no one does it better than Calamari Press. Show Calamari an edge and it will hold you over it. Show them an envelope and they will push it. On the one hand it’s very respectable to say you’re the best at what you do, that no one does it quite like you. On the other, when you take things to the very cutting edge, you please the hardcores and alienate the majority. Calamari publishes a writing style that doesn’t pander to the casual observer. Nowhere is this more evident than in the latest release of Sleepingfish 8, its sporadically published journal.
Another virtue of the writing styles within is that they question what a short story even is. The pieces are presented without bylines, you get the title then you go. It’s a discomforting experience not seeing the name of the author before you delve into something they’ve written. You’ll want to force yourself to flip to find out who it is but you realize this is not the intent of the publisher, so you roll with that discomfort, as it’s all part of the show.
In Bathhouse in 5 Senses, Tim Jones-Yelvington traces the experience of a trip to a gay men’s bathhouse, not through any characters, but through tastes, colors, smells, sounds and textures. Matt Bell unleashes more grotesque children from his forthcoming collection Cataclysm Baby. Ryan Call’s story about an embittered, deceased farmer, told through the behavioral patterns of tornadoes. in The Lonesome Deaths of Bud and Sandy Dennis Cooper phones it in with two chunks of glib, admittedly funny, dialogue about a father murdering his children. Amelia Gray tells the story of a woman who eats literally everything in the house to cope with the disappearance of her man.
The most respectable thing about the writing is the out and out rejection of traditional narrative style. This is why the top of the toilet tank is the best place for it: Each piece requires such a drastic recalibration of your senses, that it’s best to take a step back after reading each story. Say, in between bowel movements. Each piece is one to two pages long, adding up to about 115 pages. If you go one piece at a time you’ll realize that it took you over 50 dumps to get through the issue, then you start to think about how many times you’ve moved your bowels in your lifetime and then you will realize the effect Sleepingfish 8 has had on you: it causes you to look at your life in a different way, which is when fiction is doing its job best.