The only difference between tragedy and romance is a happy ending. Right now, the small tragedy of your reading life is that when you see the New York Tyrant imprint on the cover or spine of a book, you don't run to the bathroom, check your breath, make sure you're looking damn fine, and then fall all over yourself to ensure that the book comes home with you. What's more, the name Giancarlo DiTrapano doesn't make your literary knees go weak. You don't know that DiTrapano is the editor of New York Tyrant, one of the most wicked-intelligent, daring, and downright remarkable literary journals/small presses currently in print, but if you did, oh, how satisfied you would be. And I want you to be satisfied.
I still get hot just thinking about my first time. I was working at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, and one of my duties was to field and redistribute e-mail that was sent to the store's general address. I would get into a zone because there was so little mail that actually warranted a response, and so I nearly sent DiTrapano's grammatically correct, understated request to "please consider stocking Baby Leg" into trash folder oblivion. What stopped me was the name Brian Evenson, the author of the book DiTrapano was slinging. If you're not familiar with Evenson's work, your literary orgasms really must be coming few and far between these days. He is an extraordinary talent, and his work is as dark, and tangled, and beautiful as your lover's hair in the morning.
Baby Leg, I learned upon closer inspection of the e-mail, was a limited-edition noir novella about a one-handed man named Kraus who dreams of a woman with a baby leg and is unknowingly being pursued by the potentially diabolical Dr. Varner. Each copy was to be signed, hardbound, illustrated, and covered in the author's "bloody" fingerprints. What? Yes, please! Unfortunately, due to certain bookstore ordering operations (Baby Leg was only available directly via the publisher or Amazon) that—sorry, self-published authors—make it hard for certain books to find their way onto anything but a consignment shelf in most independent stores, I had to deny DiTrapano's request. I didn't know it then, but this was the equivalent of telling my soul mate that due to some minor logistical inconveniences, we could never be together. Within a few weeks, I received a complimentary copy of Baby Leg and read it, feeling as breathlessly taken by DiTrapano's persistence as Juliet must have felt when Romeo scaled the wall to her balcony. A passionate love affair was born.
Baby Leg was New York Tyrant's debut in the small-press world, and it takes balls (even with an author of Evenson's caliber and loyal readership, and even if your press has been around for years) to risk publishing a title at a price point of $35 without having a major distributor at your back to ensure it's accessible to booksellers. DiTrapano is burning up, he takes risks (it's rumored that he sold his house in New Orleans to start New York Tyrant), and he demands the same from his authors.
DiTrapano and New York Tyrant have only been publishing out of New York's Hell's Kitchen since 2007. Tyrant released Baby Leg in 2009, followed in 2010 by Firework, a novel by Eugene Marten, which follows a man who whips, tornado-like, through the tattered threads of his own life. He winds up on a trip through the darkest places in America in order to help a stranger who is even more torn. The book is so staggering, it practically deserves its own genre.
New York Tyrant's tri-quarterly journal graciously attends to a reader's conjugal needs while she is awaiting the press's latest book. Its authors are as bold, inventive, and carefully chosen as the positions of the Kama Sutra, and Evenson, Robert Glück, Breece D'J Pancake, Elizabeth Koch, and Christine Schutt have been featured among them.
In May, Tyrant released its third book, a brutally detailed exploration of loss and loving entitled Us, which follows the minute-by-minute experiences of an old married couple starting at the moment the husband wakes up to find his wife having a seizure, and ending well past the end of both of their lives. The author, Michael Kimball, joins DiTrapano's lineup of lesser-known literary rock stars, and may just be the writer you've been dreaming of: sensitive, straightforward, a tad sentimental, and unafraid of going down the darkest paths of memory with his heart beating harder and faster on his sleeve. Like a lover you can trust, each of New York Tyrant's authors forces you to boldly confront your anxieties and fears, they turn perversions into kinks, and your reading life becomes more honest and satisfactory because of them. It's a polyamorous love affair, to be sure, but for the enthusiastic, open-minded reader, an intimate relationship with New York Tyrant is the quickest way to achieve a sweat-breaking, firework-exploding happy ending.