Some thoughts on the Press

February 20, 2010

posted and written by Caroline Picard

In the midst of all of these transitions, I have been thinking more and more about the press and what it is trying to accomplish.

The thing is, I’ve started to think about how expectations are different. On one spectrum, people feel like a book has been a success if it gets a review in the New York Times. On the other spectrum, as with many idiosyncratic chapbooks, or even small record labels, others are happy with a tangible, printed version of what was previously a word document on a computer. A small party with ten friends and some popcorn. The end. There is an infinite array of possiblities between those poles.
As I am in the midst of rethinking the press, I feel like there are two directions to consider. Perhaps it is worth trying to get bigger, to get more reviews, to achieve a larger status in the world of printed matter. The other option is to concentrate on a smaller practice.

While I am still feeling/thinking through those possibilities, I am inclined towards a smaller focus. I feel that itch to make something lesser known is somehow part of a political inkling. One in which I facilitate less “marketable” projects, such that the book itself becomes an intimate and priveladged interaction. One afforded the peculiar and consistent collector, as well as the happenstance consumer. Doing so requires an educated audience, people willing to seek out the books we print. Yet also it goes against the grain of predominant trends, in which one tries to be as accessible as possible. That does not mean I want to make the press exclusive, but rather to have a door which is both welcoming and difficult to find. Each book, each project becomes an investment on the part of the audience, an instance in which he or she chooses to support or consider a text because it is curious. To that end, I rely on time and consistency. The character of what we print needs to be of good quality. And, from a publisher’s perspective, that strategy requires an absurd leap–

Such an effort does not make any sense in our socio-economic structure, one where legitimacy is measured either by money or recognition. I don’t think either of those things are bad, yet I am interested in exploring different means of legitimacy and reward. As I don’t have all the answers yet, I am still very much thinking and feeling out loud.
Styalistically, I am also opposed to boasts, prefer instead that moment of surprise when someone with whom one speaks discovers that one is greater, not lesser, than their claims. (Hollywood, for instance presents an opposite model–where soft money is the basis of funding for movies and people can recite their resumes in five minutes flat–a feat, no doubt. I’ve heard that life is very shiny there). I don’t think one way is better than another, but one way is more natural to me. I suppose, as a churlish adolescent, that I want to be able to participate in the world on terms prescribed by my community, not by a larger, alienating structure of hierarchical achievement.

All of this is still to be developed, contextualized by a particular scheme of language…these are merely reflections towards that end.


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