Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back to the Dave Eggers Thing, Part 1

Alright, well, now that I've gotten that out of my system, back to the Dave Eggers thing. Here's a lengthy excerpt from a fairly recent interview published in The New Yorker, in which Eggers talks about his reasons for electing to manufacture his new book domestically. Or rather, as you'll see Eggers point out, to have domestic help in bringing his new book to being. Suddenly, I feel as if I'm writing about the relationship between hiring a cleaning service and finishing a novel. And while there may be one, I'm not. Yet. For more on that, read this. Now, back to the lengthy excerpt which I promise isn't too lengthy. But if you need a little encouragement, imagine yourself having read it and now going to the fridge for an "I just read every word of that inspiring and edifying excerpt" treat. And while you're there, grab me a soda:

The New Yorker: McSweeney’s is publishing the hardback edition of A Hologram for the King, and in your acknowledgments, you thank the entire staff at the Thomson-Shore printers in Dexter, Michigan. Did you make a deliberate decision to print the book using a U.S. printer? How often do you find yourself making decisions about costs, and whether to use domestic or overseas firms when you’re working on McSweeney’s other publications?

Dave Eggers: I have to admit that I had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment when it came to the printing of McSweeney’s books. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of our production in the U.S., and even more in Canada, and then, about five years ago, we started printing in Asia, too. But then, a few years ago, I got to know this printer outside Detroit called Thomson-Shore. They’d done some pro-bono work for our tutoring center nearby, 826 Michigan, so I visited the plant, and thanked them, and saw some beautiful books they’d made, and met the men and women who worked there. Walking the production floor was very much like meeting members of an extended family; most of the people at Thomson-Shore have been there for decades. And they’d just done a beautiful job printing the Mark Twain autobiography, so we decided to do a book with them—that was the John Sayles' novel, A Moment in the Sun—and they did a fantastic job with that book. The fact that they’re in Michigan makes it easier to communicate, to reprint, and to correct problems, and the prices are close enough to China’s numbers, when you take shipping and various delays into account. I don’t mean to beat a made-in-America drum, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t feel somehow right to be printing books in the U.S. And as you can see, Thomson-Shore did an incredible job with Hologram. We did a lot of tests for the cover, and made a dozen adjustments, and doing that in Michigan is really easy, and even fun. When I was thinking of the acknowledgments, it made sense to thank everyone at the printing plant, given they’re a big part of getting the book out into the world.

It's enough to make you want to hit cancel and pig out on imaginary snacks for the rest of your life, isn't it? But it got me thinking for myself about who here in the twin cities not only publishes, but prints books on their own. No doubt this list is, at best, incomplete, but here are a few small presses I've caught word of in the last few months alone.

Ohio, by Alec Soth and Brad Zellar. Little Brown Mushroom, 2012.

Photographer Alec Soth and writer Brad Zellar are Little Brown Mushroom Books, based in St. Paul. Brad stopped in... well, like on Tuesday or something but, for the sake of this storyline, let's say last month, and was surprised to see a copy of Ohio on our shelves, which was still hot off the press, just one week after Soth and Zellar had returned from their sojourn through the downs and outs of Ohio, "in search of community." Micawbers carries this one, too, but at the time Zellar was excited to see it for sale outside of New York, in the Midwest, where, like a once angst-ridden teenager, determined to get out of town and make it in the city, it came from. I'm gonna need that soda sooner or later.

Swim, by Jen March. Broadcraft Press, 2012

I've mentioned Broadcraft Press before and I'll be damned if I won't do it again! Sorry. Why? No, not why am I sorry. Let's get past that. Why the nod? Because this St. Paul press has in its infancy produced one of this year's nominees for the Minnesota Book Award, in poetry: Su Smallen's Buddha, Proof. Broadcraft unofficially began in 2007, when as grad students at Hamline University, these bright, talented woman got busy redefining what it meant to make a literary magazine, while I struggled to figure out how to open it.

And finally, for the time being, a poem by Chris Title, published by Red Bird Chapbooks which, under the editorial auspice of Dana Hoeschen, solicits, manufactures and distributes broadsides and chapbooks, with the express purpose of bringing artists and writers together in a blind date type scenario, whereby unsuspecting artists are blindfolded and led by hand to coffee shops where poets wait to be identified by the sound of their mostly internal anxieties. Red Bird came to my attention one night following a reading, when I noticed I was in one of their chapbooks. Like Talking-Image-Connection, Red Bird, in association with The Cracked Walnut Reading Series, does this great thing of publishing a chapbook in conjunction with events, creating, in effect, an archive of each one's work and singularity.

More to come. This soda isn't going to crack open itself, apparently.

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