concept to publication

Month: December 2008

Why am I working today?

Average Number of Vacation Days per Year
source: World Tourism Organization (WTO)

average number of vacation days in various countriesItaly    42 days
France    37 days
Germany    35 days
Brazil    34 days
UK    28 days
Canada    26 days
Korea    25 days
Japan    25 days
USA    13 days


Northern California Book Reviewers Translation Award

I’ll be on the road for a while, and posting could continue to be light until mid January.

Meanwhile, I’ve agreed to be a reader for this translation award. Books translated in calendar 2008 by writers based anywhere  between Fresno and the Oregon border are eligible. So far these are on my reading list:

  • Castellanos Moya, Horacio, Senselessness, translated by Katherine Silver (New Directions)
  • Do, Nguyen, and Paul Hoover, eds., trans., Black Dog, Black Night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry (Milkweed)
  • Holderlin, Friedrich, Odes and Elegies, translated by Nick Hoff (Wesleyan)
  • Holderlin, Friedrich, Selected Poems, translated by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover (Omnidawn)
  • Nobuo, Ayukawa, America and Other Poems, translated by Shogo Oketani and Lez Lowitz (Kaya)
  • Peri Rossi, Christina, State of Exile, translated by Marylin Buck (City Lights)
  • Rodamor, William and Anna Livia, eds., trans., France: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts)
  • Rojas, Gonzalo, From the Lightning: Selected Poems, translated by John Oliver Simon (Green Integer)
  • Saba, Umberto, Songbook, translated by George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan (Yale)
  • Talebi, Niloufar, ed., trans., Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians around the World (North Atlantic)
  • Toussaint, Jean-Philippe, Camera, translated by Matthew B. Smith (Dalkey Archive)
  • Zambra, Alejandro, Bonzai, translated by Carolina de Robertis (Melville House)

This is a pretty strong group of candidates. It makes me feel encouraged about the state of literary book publishing today (but notice all were published by independents or university presses — corporate publishers have abandoned the the kind of publishing that built houses like Knopf).


Friday roundup | Duly quoted

“The weakest link in the chain is also the strongest. It can break the chain.” — Stanislaw Lec

Duly quoted

  • “One half the nation is mad — and the other half not very sound.”
    — Tobias Smollett



On the devaluation of editors

Pat Holt’s take on this topic is worth reading. Here are some excerpts:

I think the saddest thing that ever happened in the book industry was the gradual devaluing of editors and all they stand for – their high standards, their belief in readers, their ability to nurture authors, their love of language, their patience, their dedication, their eye.And most of all, their power….

As I recall, the ganging up against editors started in the 1970s, when Michael Korda of Simon & Schuster said that editorial workers should acquire marketing savvy so they’d get out of their ivory towers and stop mumbling about literary values at sales conference. Until then there was at least an attempt to separate Editorial from Sales & Marketing so that acquisition decisions wouldn’t be tainted by commercial concerns. The editors acquired the books independently; they told the marketing people what to sell. Sales and Marketing got to decide how to sell them, but there was no backing-and-forthing, no suggestions made to editors, no intrusion into the editorial process….

I can’t think of anything harder today than being an editor for a mainstream publishing house in New York. Now the horror stories are even worse, coming from the authors’ point of view. Acquisitions editors are pushed so hard to get out there and compete that they often leave the actual reading and editing to assistants who don’t know enough yet to bring the manuscript to its highest level….

I don’t think it’s healthy for editors to be ignorant of the marketplace and marketing. Editors since before the time of Aldus Manutius have had their finger on that pulse. It’s not realistic, or even desirable, to expect editors not to be “tainted by commercial concerns.” But I agree that in large commercial publishing today the shift of power to the marketers has not resulted in a superior product, and that for the most part neither readers nor authors are well served by it.

Read the whole article here.


The Passion of Saint Rudolph

Above: The Passion of Saint Rudolph, 2008, colored pixels, by Thomas Christensen and an unnamed Palin family photographer.


Instead of doing my traditional seasons greetings this year, I decided to feature Saint Rudolph. Previously I had taken Nicholas as my subject, as shown below.

Is print dying?

tibetan book of the deadSteve Rubel, one of the sharpest web marketers (and a prolific tweeter) claims that  “five years from now all media will either be completely digital or well on its way to becoming intangible.”

I’ve had a website since 1994. I’m glad content is being digitized. I love being able to find stuff I don’t have in my own library without even having to leave the house. Sometimes I wonder how we ever even did research before the internet.

But I don’t believe that print is dying.

Friday roundup

“If Folly link with Elegance no man knows which is which.” – William Butler Yeats

Duly Quoted: Three quotes from Moses Hadas

  • I have read your book and much like it.
  • Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I’ll waste no time reading it.
  • This book fills a much-needed gap.


Ten Independent Bay Area Book Publishers, part 2

Yesterday I began a list of ten independent Bay Area book publishing companies, all of which are producing interesting work, though each has its own unique personality and focus. Today I continue with nos. 6-10.

Ten Independent Bay Area Book Publishers, part 1

<em>The Ohlone Way</em> by Malcolm Margolin. Heyday Press, Berkeley

The Ohlone Way by Malcolm Margolin. Heyday Press, Berkeley.

Following the example of Kyle Semmel, I offer here ten independent presses (five today and another five tomorrow) based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Compared to the corporate multinational companies that have swallowed up the traditional New York publishing houses, independents tend to be devoted to the content of the books they publish and not just to their sales; in many cases their books are lovingly produced. These presses would be good places to look for holiday gifts.

Of course the Bay Area has many more than just ten worth independent presses. Apologies to those I have not listed, and feel free to use the comments section to list omissions. (Remember too that Small Press Distribution in Berkeley is a good place to find interesting books.) The ten presses are listed alphabetically.

Appreciating Tschichold

jan tschichold, 1926

Jan Tschichold is one of the inescapable figures in twentieth-century typoraphy. This photo was taken in 1926. Richard Hollis has written an appreciation, called “Jan Tschichold: Titan of Typography,” in the Guardian. Although Hollis’s article does not attempt much analysis or evaluation of Tschichold’s work, it does present another angle of approach to one of the most influential typographers of modern times.

Friday roundup | Duly quoted

“Honour commercio’s energy yet aid the linkless proud, the plurable with everybody.”
Finnegans Wake

Duly Quoted

  • “You won’t win on quick distribution, and you won’t win on price. Cyberspace has that covered. Go back to an old-fashioned idea: that a book, printed in ink on durable paper, acid-free for longevity, is a thing of beauty. Make it as well as you can. People want to cherish it.”
    James Gleick


Five of Books

jost amman, 5 of books

I’m a great fan of Jost Amman (Swiss, 1539–1591), and I keep coming back to his deck of cards in which one of the suits was books — here we have the 5 of books.

Better Flickr search

Compfight (don’t ask me to explain the name) is my new favorite Flickr search site. It’s extremely fast, returns a lot of results, and can be set to retrieve only Creative Commons images. If you hover your mouse over one of the thumbnails it will show you the size of the original image.

Progress on library

Getting Settled

Back in September I mentioned that I was working on a couple of outbuildings that will house much of my library. I’ve been progressing on this pretty steadily, and now I’ve moved in my desk and am starting to move in books.

I still have to frame the window, install a threshold, put up the siding, etc. But the building is functional and watertight.


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