Across town from the numbing fluorescent lights of Chicago’s McCormick convention center, where Book Expo America 2000 unfolded, the Crobar (otherwise a leather hot spot) opened its dungeon doors to the fifth annual Firecracker Alternative Book Awards. The FABs “celebrate the insurrectionary culture . . . burning the unsightly mildew of mediocrity from the shower stall of the soul.” In other words, authors corporate publishing tends to ignore are honored here as underground evangelists.
Mistress of ceremonies Karen Finley began with a hypermonologue about rape juxtaposed with diatribes against “you’re-no-god-to-me” Jack Kerouac and “arty-farty slob” Bill Burroughs. “Poet/comedian/asshole” Shappy, accompanied by a ventriloquist’s dummy representing an inner child masturbating (“because that’s all poetry is”), kudo’d The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry by Alan Kaufman and S.A. Griffin (Thunder’s Mouth Press). In the kids’ category, Lee Byrd of Cinco Punto Press hollered, “Viva la Zapatistas!” as he accepted for The Story of Colors by Subcomandante Marcos and Domitilia Dominguez. A self-described middle-aged mom who writes about vaginal fisting announced the sex winner: I Was a Teenage Dominatrix by Shawna Kenney (Retro Systems).
Po Man’s Child by Marci Blackman (Manic D Press) grabbed the fiction prize, The Future of History by Howard Zinn and David Barsamian (Common Courage Press) won nonfiction, Fucked Up + Photocopied: Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement by Bryan Ray Turcotte (Gingko Press) won music, and for graphic novel, it was My New York Diary by Julie Doucet (Drawn & Quarterly).
Many winners were either late arriving or outside getting stoned, so there were few acceptees in the crowd of 200—until Sander Hicks, whose Soft Skull Press received the Outstanding Independent Press Award, snatched the microphone and shouted: “We risked it all on Fortunate Son [the George W. bio canceled by St. Martin’s Press]. We are the revolution!”