Okay, today’s small press is definitely on the quirkier side. How quirky? Quirkier than that. It just might be the quirkiest of any of our small press shout-outs thus far.
First things first. Black Balloon’s website is gorgeous. Not very quirky! Just elegant and beautiful. But then there’s this motto:
We champion the weird, the unwieldy, and the unclassifiable.
The gauntlet has been thrown! Let’s see some freak flags flying!
Hang on, hang on…weird and unwieldy and unclassifiable are easy words to throw around, but what exactly do they mean? In Black Ballon’s case, they mean this:
Black Balloon books are risky but not gimmicky, whimsical but never light, intelligent but not precious. We cater to writers who kick conventions curbside, who provoke without sentiment, who make the despicable somehow appealing. We blur lines between disciplines—think an autobiographical account of an identity broken, then rebuilt, scene by scene, via the perspectives of loved ones. Think recipes sung word-for-word and packaged inside a collaborative, illustrated cookbook. Think a quixotic coming-of-age novel told through inside jokes.
We’re partial to paradoxical characters—hermit architects, pill-popping priests, lacquered dandies with night terrors. We take delight very seriously. We are not offended by the hokey, necessarily. We crave simplicity and elegance and have no idea what that means. We enjoy a nice narrative slap with our breakfast tea.
Sounds good…but this is still a little intangible. Let’s see some examples, Black Balloon!
How about Nine Rabbits by Bulgarian author Virginia Zaharieva, which continues Black Balloon’s mini-tradition of bringing out “exceptional English language translation[s] of literary fiction from an underrepresented country fraught with political and social instability”?
Very specific, sure, but is that unclassifiable? I don’t think so! Come on, Black Balloon. Give us the quirky!
Okay, how about their Clementine Classics, a series in which classic works of literature (e.g., Sister Carrie, The Age of Innocence) are annotated by a hedgehog?
Now we’re getting somewhere!
Or there’s this one:
Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality by Bill Peters
Rochester, New York, 1999: An arsonist is loose on the streets of a city in decline. Gone are the days of Rioting in the Vomit Cruiser, searching for a possible Tokyo Rocking Horse.
Ah yes. Who among us hasn’t felt a little nostalgic for those lost days of Rioting in the Vomit Cruiser? Now it’s just fading photographs and listening to the Springsteen songs Oh No Tokyo (My Lil’ Rocking Horse) and Got My Gas Tank Full and My Vomit Cruiser Ready to Roll.
But there’s more!
In this hilarious, wildly original debut novel, Nathan Gray and best friend Necro live by the code of Joke Royalty, a system of in-jokes known only to a select few. But as the reality of full-time employment, possible spouses, and Neo-Nazis encroaches, their friendship unravels, threatening their dreams of becoming Kodak Park Winjas.
Among the gravest Hellstacheries: Necro’s strangely vicious drawings and his sudden interest in a group of weapons enthusiasts who may or may not be responsible for the fires erupting through downtown. With no Holy Grail Points left to his name, Nate ventures into Rochester’s strangest corners to find out if his best friend is a domestic terrorist Pinning Bow Ties on the Dead or simply Maverick Jetpantsing on with his life—perhaps even beyond The City of Quality.
Weird, unwieldy, unclassifiable…Black Balloon Publishing, I think we hit the trifecta!
Everyone (freaks and curious onlookers alike) should head over to Black Balloon to see what they’ve got on their sidewalk display. It will be worth your time! You can see the results of my own small press efforts by checking out the paperback edition of The Race.
Previous Small Press Shout-Outs: