Comic books, webcomics, graphic novels, memoirs set in graphic novels, zines. The comic book is back, and Nobrow Press is right in the midst of the flurry. On June 23, Hyperallergic detailed Nobrow Press, highlighting the 17×23 series which includes Jen Lee’s Vacancy.
The 17×23 series is named for the 17 by 23-centimeter size of its volumes—a size that gives emerging writers like Lee the chance to work in a larger format, without going full volume. As with most of her work, Lee’s new book imagines animals sans the support of humans: “I love thinking about if critters would have a riot at us not existing anymore, or would some who depended on our luxuries be weeded out?”
And, the 17×23 series challenged Lee to create something more extensive, to grow her art: “The biggest challenge with Vacancy was that I had to get the complete story down first. . . .With my webcomic . . . I don’t know what’s going to be in the next update until I sit down and do my first thumbnails.” Thunderpaw is Lee’s delightful, moving webcomic, which set her up nicely for her work with Nobrow Press.
The fusion of literature and nature speaks volumes. Almost literally. Bellevue Literary Press is showcasing this abundance in their BLP Conversations series, featuring BLP authors in conversation with other professionals at the intersection of the arts and science, the neuroscientists, dramatists, psychiatrists, and historians of today. The series is a companion to BLP’s book The Poetic Species: A Conversation with Edward O. Wilson and Robert Hass.
Enter Cormac James and Philip Hoare, whose June 11 conversation was featured at Literary Hub.
James (author of the Bellevue Literary Press novel The Surfacing) and Hoare (a notable nonfiction writer in the realm of nature and science) discussed the powerful metaphors in each other’s work, Moby Dick (of course), and the remarkable talents of whales.
Both authors use parts of nature as metaphor—in Hoar’s book The Sea Inside, he ponders that “Our bodies are as unknown to us as the ocean, both familiar and strange; the sea inside ourselves.”
The Surfacing by Cormac James
In response, James continued with another metaphor, and then onto the incredible theory present in Hoare’s work that whales may be able to perceive 3D pictures of the human inner life. In James’s words, “that for them, much as we often are for ourselves, we are solid blocks of emotions rather than mere knots of mechanical function.”
Beginning in 2014, the BLP Conversations has grown to nine installments, each available for free online.
Publishing is clearly not dead. In fact, despite all the doomsday prophecies over that past decade, publishing is alive and well. But author Kamila Shamsie is challenging the industry to make itself better—gender equality, people. On June 5, Shamsie published a provocation in the Guardian, with the basic premise being that “none of the new titles published in  should be written by men.”
Kamila Shamsie, photo courtesy of the Guardian
The challenge has exploded online, and one publisher has already stepped up to the plate. The small British press And Other Stories has committed to publishing writing only by female writers for 2018.
And Other Stories publishes 10-12 books per year. But head publisher Stefan Tobler is hoping this will be a challenge to bigger publishing houses. In Shamsie’s words, “Provocation is one way to bring attention to the problem. Another is brightly coloured pie charts. I’m sure there are a score of others, waiting to be born.”
According to Sophie Lewis, senior editor at And Other Stories, “By taking on the challenge we . . . will end up becoming a kind of small-scale model for a much bigger inquiry about why women’s writing is consistently sidelined or secondary, the poor cousin rather than the equal of men’s writing.” In the op-ed piece she wrote for the Independent, Lewis hinted at least one other publisher will be joining in on the challenge, and hoped for more: “Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good provocation.”
And Other Stories’ commitment to publishing only women authors in 2018 is getting attention at Shelf Awareness, the Guardian, Ploughshares, Huffington Post, the Rumpus, Bustle, and Publishing Perspectives.
Since selling its first book at 75 cents a copy in 1955, City Lights Publishers has made its mark on the literary world, and during BEA on May 28, Publishers Weekly took notice. The story in Publishers Weekly outlined the landmarks in City Lights’s 60 years of impact.
Allen Ginsberg, courtesy of Wikipedia
From Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, to the ensuing obscenity trial which cemented City Lights “as a defender of free speech and a publisher of innovative literature,” this publisher has been in the business of pushing literary boundaries.
The recent Rad American Women A–Z, which “hit the #5 spot on the New York Times bestseller list on May 17, in the children’s middle-grade category,” shows that City Lights has plenty left to say.
In celebration of its 60th Anniversary, City Lights is featuring five titles:
- Pictures of the Gone World: 60th Anniversary Edition
- City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology: 60th Anniversary Edition
- I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–1997
- a new, expanded edition of Hiparama of the Classics
- a 25th anniversary edition of Shock Treatment
City Lights Bookstore, courtesy of Jelenpub.com
With Rad American Women: A-Z raging through the bestseller lists, City Lights Publishers is tipping the iceberg toward decades more of radical publishing.
By luck of the Irish, Madrid-based publisher Hispabooks got a sizeable mention in a May 29th story by Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times. Battersby highlighted the rich literary history of Spain (starting with Don Quixote de la Mancha by the legendary Miguel de Cervantes), and then profiled nine contemporary titles from Spain Spanish publishers.
Four of these titles are the literary love children (niños del amor) of Ana Pérez Galván and Gregorio Doval, Hispabooks founding editors. The titles highlighted—The Stein Report by Jose Carlos Llop, The Birthday Buyer by Adolfo Garcia Ortega, Uppsala Woods by Alvaro Colomer, and The Faint-Hearted Bolshevik by Lorenzo Silva—are exciting representations of what Hispabooks is all about: English translations of the best contemporary Spanish writing from writers working in one of Spain’s four languages.
And although English-language publishers remain “slow to take chances on literary fiction in translation . . . Hispabooks is proving that this no longer matters. Why wait on London or New York? Madrid is identifying quality literary fiction and making it available to a wider readership.” In the words of Battersby, “Readers are far more adventurous–publishers should stop underestimating us.”
Someone at Coffee House Press knows how to use Instagram well. For the week of May 11, Coffee House Press was the featured user for Real Pants (@actualpants), a blog and Instagram account that features key members of the literary world each week.
Coffee House Press’s photos from the week included some real gems:
“Welcome to our office in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s full of good books and good people (and coffee, naturally).”
“This old flat file is full of movable type, one of the many reminders in the office of our origin as a small letterpress operation.”
Coffee House Press’s Instagram fun ended with this concise, cutting piece.