Kate Beaton On her web comic, Hark! A Vagrant, Beaton, who works out of a studio in Greenpoint, wryly mocks a wide swath of Western Civilization, distilling heady topics of study into concentrated bursts of disarming silliness. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what the internet is for; it’s no wonder she’s begun to be recognized. Leading indie-comics imprint Drawn and Quarterly released a collection this year, and she’s had cartoons in the New Yorker (“a doctor’s office thing,” she told us this fall).
Helen Phillips The Ditmas resident and Brooklyn College professor’s And Yet They Were Happy, was published this year by the small house Leapfrog Press. In it, Phillips casually blends realism with surrealism, across microstories grouped loosely and resonating with dream-journal symbolism; it’s an auspicious, uncanny debut.
Tracy K. Smith The Boerum Hill poet’s third collection, Life on Mars, was her tribute to her late father, who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope; she earned raves in the New Yorker and elsewhere for a perspective on memory, family, history and loss which balances intimate observation and cold cosmic objectivity.
Emma Straub The beloved BookCourt employee, Prospect-Lefferts Garden resident, and former personal assistant to Stephin Merritt writes short stories with an attitude towards urban life that’s a bit dazed and a bit curious about its attendant anxieties: turning a neurosis over in your palm like a piece of beach glass, oh, hmm, would you look at this. She’s become ubiquitous as new and old media institutions merge: her story collection Other People We Married, published early this year, was the debut book from the website Five Chapters; it’ll be reissued next year by Riverhead, which is fairly unusual for a recent small-press title.
Quentin Rowan The co-owner of Spoonbill and Sugartown published a thriller, Assassin of Secrets, this fall, under the pseudonym Q.R. Markham: “In case there was something down the road that I wanted to put my real name on,” he told the Daily News. Maybe something he actually wrote? Assassin of Secrets, it was quickly revealed, was almost entirely plagiarized from several well-known spy novels (as were earlier pieces, including a story published in The Paris Review). After his book was pulped, Rowan broke his radio silence with a confessional essay blaming it all on his battle with alcoholism. We look forward to reading about the advance he gets for his memoir.