Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Real Darkness

I'm really proud to be publishing a novel by Xiaoda Xiao called The Cave Man. I believe that his voice and his story are incredibly important. Plenty of books feel necessary to me, but this one seems essential.

It was disturbing to see China positioned as the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair. One good thing that came out of it, though, were the voices of dissent in the press, from writers, and from publishers. (I imagine that if the officials of the fair had any interest other than China as an emerging market, the jist of the event would have focused upon the country's censorship.)

I enjoyed some of the coverage by Publishing Perspectives from the fair, one piece called "Dissidents Have Their Day" and another called "The Red Piano Won't Play in China." The latter is by Australian publisher Andrew Wilkins about a Chinese printer refusing to print his children's book for censorship reasons.

Wilkins says, "Even as I share the excitement of seeing China as this year’s Guest of Honour, I’m also concerned that we have a Guest that still seems interested in censoring not only its own people, but the rest of the world as well when it can."

Publishers Weekly reviewed The Cave Man a month or so back, called it "excellent and moving," and in their most recent issue they've published an interview with Xiao, in which he talks about his own time spent in solitary confinement (for reading banned literature smuggled under the cover of one of Mao's red books), his sentiments toward Chinese prison literature of the '80s, and what he hopes to accomplish with his first novel.

Xiao says: "I hope to make people understand what we went through collectively, the terror in its daily and hourly incarnation. Just like Kafka, you know? It's a danger for us all when a society accepts this as normal. I was arrested and accused of attacking "the great leader's image" in 1971, and they sentenced me to a five-year prison term. I stayed in prison for seven years, five as a prisoner and two more as a laborer. This is what is happening in China right now. This is the real world, the real darkness that I've experienced. Not what they say, or people from the outside see, not the propaganda that's talked about."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

He Was the Man For His Time and Place.

I wrote a rather nostalgic piece on The Rumpus cataloging my lethargy towards e-books. In it, I mention Larry Shainberg (author of Crust) telling me a story about being with Samuel Beckett when he received his author-copies of one of his books. As I was writing the piece, I asked Larry to tell me the story again and this is what he wrote:
"I've forgotten which of Beckett's books I told you about. It was one he published when about 78 years old. After a cast party for the London production of Endgame (the one I wrote about, for which he invited me to watch rehearsals), I walked him -- across Hyde Park -- back to his hotel because he was a bit drunk and I was worried to see he'd make it. At the front desk, they presented him with a hand-delivered copy, the first he'd seen, and as we rode up in the elevator together (I wasn't about to leave him before he got to his room), he showed off the book to me as if it were his first... "'What do you think? Nice cover, isn't it?'"

"His enthusiasm, I should say, was in no way unusual. In general, he always seemed like a beginner in his work."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Aubrey Rhodes

Aubrey Rhodes is a pretty amazing collage artist out of San Francisco. Above is her collage-painting of Superman, called "The Enemy Within."

I'm having trouble downloading more pictures of her work from her website, but you can just skidaddle on over there yourself to check out the rest.

She also did the cover for Joshua Mohr's second novel, Termite Parade, which we're incredibly excited about.

flOOk Books

I used to keep these Moleskine notebooks that everybody else had, which were black and generic. I'd throw stickers on them to spice them up. After a month, I'd tear off the stickers and try to put new ones on. It was fairly redundant. And messy and unattractive.

I found these incredibly rad notebooks - Fluke Books - that are made from letterpress scraps from the Tara Books workshop. Each notebook I've seen has been gorgeous and unique. I prefer the one I have to the pics I could scrounge up online, but you can catch the drift from this picture.

Also, peep this video on Tara's process of making books:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Making the Case for Technology: A Younger Generation’s Perspective on the Present Publishing Predicament

by JK Evanczuk

One of the most fascinating things about the technological revolution sweeping over the publishing industry is not the products of the revolution itself—that is, digital readers, hybrid books, and the evolution of the Internet—but rather all the speculation that all this new technology has inspired. I don’t think there’s ever been a revolution before with so much real-time commentary.

I can’t count how many articles I’ve read decrying technology—online articles, mind you, and let’s not ignore the irony inherent in that. People aren’t reading anymore, they say. They’re too busy playing digital Scrabble or Tweeting about what they ate for breakfast. It’s the end for the publishing industry! We’re doomed! And all the doomsaying is to be expected, of course, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned during this technological revolution, it’s that People Don’t Like Change. Furthermore, people are reacting to incomplete information, and making wild conjecture based on a digital-literary climate that hasn’t been seen through yet.

That said, let me make some wild conjecture of my own.

The way I see it, technology is a wonderful, wonderful thing for literature. Thanks to the Internet we can discover new books and publishers and discuss our favorite stories with interesting people outside our own literary circles, whom we’ve perhaps never met in person. Thanks to the Kindle and the iPhone we can take our favorite books with us—we can take entire libraries with us—and even download new novels on-the-go. Technology makes it exceedingly easy to discover and enjoy literature.

I understand why technology is causing such a mighty ruckus right now—why mess around with something so ancient and sacred as the printed word?—but I think what all the hubbub ultimately comes down to is this: are people still reading? And they are, more than ever before. Emerging technological formats and shifting consumer preferences are forcing publishers to restructure their operations accordingly, but that’s all it is. Restructuring. Which is markedly different than “the end of publishing.”

Like the music and movie industries are currently re-examining their operations in the face of new formats and digital piracy, the publishing industry will have to take a good hard look at itself and figure out how to make itself sustainable, whether that’s by charging higher prices for e-books or with less conventional methods, such as including advertisements in their books or turning their authors into rock stars and charging fans steep prices to see them on tour, stadium-style.

These ideas might seem a little outlandish, sure. But then again, maybe that’s what we need, because the old methods aren’t working anymore. The publishing industry isn’t what it used to be. But I don’t think that’s anything to worry about, in the long-term anyway. Things change. That’s the way of the world. The only difference about what’s happening now is that the change in question is big and abrupt, and because of that People Don’t Like It.

While I’m just beginning the heyday of my own generation and therefore cannot personally attest to the struggles of the publishing industry during earlier generations, as far as I can tell literature has always had to contend with The Next Big Thing. First it was the radio, then the film, then television. Now it’s technology, manifest in a medley of forms. But literature prevailed then. It will prevail now.
JK Evanczuk is the founter of LitDrift, a blog about storytelling in the 21st century.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

This Made Me Break Out the Camera and...

The UPS guy made my day when he delivered our copies of Rudolph Wurlitzer's second and third novels, Flats and Quake, which we're reissuing this month in a back-to-back or 69ed edition.

Similar to both Nog and The Drop Edge of Yonder, this edition of the two novels features original photographs by Rudy's wife, the celebrated photographer Lynn Davis. It's been really incredible to couple their work like this and I've been pleased with the enthusiastic feedback we've received. (In particular, the cover to Flats makes my spine tingle.)

And in my excitement, I'm also posting Michael Greenberg's truly marvelous introduction, which, after I first read it, inspired me to revisit immediately both of these novels, which I devoured as if for the first time. Which is more than you can ask for in an introduction.