Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Deep inside our womanly souls" (my book industry entry, it seems)

Here I am at the bookstore, reading a few passages from the Patti Smith book -- I open it four times, and what a mess -- every excerpt I read is so formulaic and overwrought it’s like a joke. Not a good one. I mean Patti Smith doesn’t notice. I’m sure there are still some interesting parts, but really I’m wondering about her editor. And her -- first I’m wondering about her, and then her editor. Anyway, I can certainly wait to get that book used. Still, I’m so grateful for this bookstore, even if it is the pompous type of place that gives independent bookstores a bad name -- you know, a showplace for the NPR crowd -- still I discover some gems. At least this time. Like a book called I Hotel, Karen Tei Yamashita, about the struggle to save the International Hotel, a residence hotel central to the Filipino American community in San Francisco, targeted for demolition in the ‘60s and the site of decades of battles. But this book isn’t a history, it’s a series of 10 one-act plays that form a 600-something page novel -- Coffee House Press is one of the few publishers constantly welding the stylistically experimental with the politically engaged.

Then I decide to get a copy of Bookforum, which has become so dry and rarefied, no wait it’s always been rarefied but not so dry. Or, okay, now I notice that the articles are actually kind of good, it’s just their choice of titles that’s dull and predictably high-culture. But anyway there’s an article in this issue (or the last issue, actually, since I didn’t realize I was buying last month’s -- but, not a problem, since I found this great book essay right at the beginning) -- wait, I already told you in parentheses what I was going to tell you out of parentheses, but I can’t figure out how to fix that. And why, anyway? So let me give you a quote from the end of the essay, “Liberation Impasse: Taking ambivalent measure of the legacy of modern feminism,” by Kerry Howley -- the essay covers three books, the last of which is the tenth anniversary edition of Manifesta, by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards-- I would link to the review, but it’s not available online unless you are a Bookforum subscriber, which I’m guessing you’re not -- anyway, here’s a quote that I particularly like:

It’s never all that clear why Baumgardner and Richards are so set on apologizing to their mothers or so upset about that one time that Betty Friedan was mean to their friend. To the question “How can Third-wave women negotiate their independence and still remain part of the family?” one can only ask why it is so important that there be a family. The Manifesta authors offer a more confident vision of feminism than that of their immediate predecessors -- less brittle, more welcoming of dissent and secure in its ability to integrate popular culture. But for all that, it’s a remarkably cloistered, orderly vision, totally lacking in imaginative scope. There is no anarchy here; each cry of rebellion is quickly quieted by the need for consensus. We keep hearing that feminists don’t hate men. Shouldn’t some of them hate men? Doesn’t the world have room for a man-hating feminist action?

Manifesta is eager to please. It is too fearful of discord, too quick to soften the edges of its subjects, too insistent that if we all search deep inside our womanly souls we will find that we are all sensible moderates.

Gorgeous, right?

I guess this is my book industry entry, because now I’m thinking about the phenomenon of small presses printing these gorgeous full-color books, but then they’re always printed in China-- the way I look at it, if a book needs to be printed in China in order to make it “profitable” or “beautiful” then I don’t think it should be printed. And I’m saying this while thinking about doing an art book version of Lostmissing, knowing that that eliminates pretty much every press doing that kind of book. PM Press has a beautiful full-color book, Paper Politics, Socially Engaged Printmaking Today, which is printed in the US, although it’s still on paper that certainly smells toxic. AK is one of the few presses I’ve noticed doing books on 100% postconsumer recycled paper -- not all of their books, but I just got a review copy of one in the mail -- Black Bloc, White Riot: Anti-Globalization and the Genealogy of Dissent, and it does say “100% recycled, acid free paper with union labor” right at the front, -- not only that, but the book is gorgeous (and, it happens to be designed by Josh MacPhee, who edited the Paper Politics book) -- I haven’t read a word of Black Bloc, so I can’t necessarily recommend it -- seems like it might be a bit distant and theoretical, but certainly gorgeously-produced -- to be honest, I can’t understand why every small press, or every press really, isn’t printing on 100% postconsumer recycled paper with vegetable-based inks. Of course I’m sure all this relates to “cost,” but we all know about the larger costs too. Now I’m curious about most of my books, but I’ve already packed them -- 12 boxes of books so far, oh my!

But look -- here are two new titles from Arsenal Pulp -- Krakow Melt, by Daniel Allen Cox, and Missed Her, by Ivan Coyote -- both on 100% post consumer recycled paper -- and, gorgeously designed with elegant, striking covers too -- who else is printing on 100% post consumer recycled paper? I know many magazines are -- including make/shift and I’m assuming Left Turn, although looking at Left Turn I can’t find anywhere that says so -- so much to think about…

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