Dan O'Brien bills himself as a "Northern California independent author and literary consultant," and his Amalgam Publishing (thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com) is a small press that has begun publishing a series of regional anthologies of fiction, poetry and nonfiction.
The first offering is "The Northern California Perspective" ($12.95 in paperback from Amalgam; also in Amazon Kindle format), available locally at Lyon Books in Chico. Intended as a quarterly literary journal, the debut issue contains a good amount of reprinted material with some new pieces as well. The goal, O'Brien wrote in an email, is to focus on original submissions for future issues.
Deeply affecting short stories from Chico State University creative writing and American literature professor Rob Davidson bookend the journal's other pieces, with an additional story in the middle, all from Davidson's "The Farther Shore" collection. "What You Don't Know" begins simply enough: "Beau's house was one of my first sales in Chico, a crucial early commission that gave this new realtor ground to stand on." That ground begins to slip away soon enough, and perhaps that's one of the subtle themes pervading many of the pieces by the 19 authors represented. Something lost in the small towns of Northern California, and maybe something to be found, as in Butte College writing instructor Joe Abbott's contribution, "Burl Cutters (Spring 1979)."
"Disrobing Chico" is an excerpt from Timothy O'Neill's memoir of a Chico long past, and a boyhood long outgrown. "If you kept your sight low so as not to see the hills of the Sierras rising golden to the east of town, glanced left where the brick Presbyterian Church bell tower closed the horizon ... , and if you then quickly turned to the right where Broadway curled before the band of huge chestnut ... then you would think you were in some eastern college town--maybe Williams or Princeton."
Poetry abounds, too. Lara Gularte writes of "Living Above Paradise": "I have come to live here,/ neighbor with skunk, bear,/ mountains with discerning faces. ..." In "The Great Free State of Northern California," by Alec Binyon, the poet writes: "We are children of the West,/ sons of restless madness and daughters of/ destitute dreamers,/ born from the survivors of faithful mountain crossings. ..." Much to be savored here.