Fuck You, I Love You
The sinister and perverse affections of Loose Teeth Press
Newbie independent publisher Loose Teeth Press has a refreshing, if sometimes offensive, sense of humour.
Hailing from Vancouver and run by the occasionally bow-tied Mike Lecky, the press has a relatively small catalogue that packs a mean and irreverent punch. What began as a press of convenience among friends has evolved, albeit slowly, into a polished punk-rock vendor of good-looking and good-reading books, true to its zine and web roots.
The unofficial star of the Loose Teeth show is the charming (and to this particular reviewer, extremely flirtatious) Joey Comeau, whose debut novel, Lockpick Pornography, became a rare wordof-mouth sensation when it was published in 2005. Selling out its first run and solidifying Loose Teeth as a press-to-watch, Lockpick was initially Comeau’s indie, DIY answer to the pressing question of “how to pay for school.” He posted the first chapter as a wordsmith entrepreneur–adding a begging Paypal donation link and releasing chapters as funds were raised. The enthusiastic response prompted Loose Teeth to publish the novella as its first title back in 2005, adding three additional chapters not released online during Comeau’s original plight. And so a press was born.
Lockpick, with its punk-rock, anti-establishment, and erotic overtones, successfully set the overall feel of the press–short, pared-down prose that attacks the status quo with satire and scathing wit.
Because of Lockpick’s underground success, the sweet-faced and occasionally snarky Comeau quickly became a queer, counter-culture literary hero to indie-press fanatics. Defying rigid definitions in interviews, unapologetic and often boyishly bratty in the press, Comeau was personality enough to make Loose Teeth an independent house that mattered. His stature as a vital author that bucks the status quo has only grown since Lockpick busted-up the usual small-press expectations four years ago, and Loose Teeth’s reputation has grown exponentially along with him.
That initial flurry of attention meant that it was a no-brainer to put together a sort of graphic-novel compilation of Comeau and Emily Horne’s deliciously dark three-paneled web comic, A Softer World (asofterworld.com). First finding an online home in 2003, the wry, wary and often surreal humour of these brief moments of truth were occasionally published in zine form, until selections from the series were collected in Loose Teeth’s A Softer World: Truth & Beauty Bombs in 2006. With sinister one-page gems such as “One year for mother’s day my mother took me to the beach and left,” and “We bet him five dollars that he would drown–a bittersweet victory,” the book continued the “fuck you” approach readers were accustomed to.
While it would be wrong to ignore that Loose Teeth has been publicly criticized for being a showcase for a single author’s talents and little else (the Joey Comeau Show, if you will) it’s evident that Lecky made a wise choice to hinge the success of his press on Comeau’s skill. Comeau has since gone on to publish with wide acclaim outside of Lecky’s house, releasing a perverse, hilarious and critically acclaimed collection of cover letters, Overqualified, with ECW press. While legend has it that Loose Teeth was created for the sole purpose of disseminating Comeau’s first offering, things have evolved slightly, and more inclusively, over the years. At the snail’s pace of about a book a season, the growth of Loose Teeth’s list of titles is changing what could be viewed as a slightly nepotistic place on the literary spectrum.
Recent releases like Comeau’s short story collection It’s Too Late to Say I’m Sorry, and Zac VandeSande’s “punk rock road trip novel wrapped up in a mixtape” Apathy and Paying Rent, represent a blossoming concern with the beauty of the bound volume–both books are strikingly beautiful in their production value, while still clinging to the press’ punk-rock roots. And even while the production value goes up and the books become more beautiful, Loose Teeth remains accessible. A large portion of the books they print are freely available online for all to read. A web-to-print model that really works, Loose Teeth is packed with potential and sitting on the precipice of becoming a major solution to the banality of the mainstream.