Archive for March, 2011

Experiments in publishing: On Ugly Duckling

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Over at the Brooklyn Rail, Jon Curley interviews Matvei Yankelevich of Ugly Duckling Presse, and a fascinating & inspiring conversation ensues. (I’ve just gotten the first stack of UDP books from my 2011 subscription & really it’s hard to know how to deal with such wealth—you kind of try to read everything all at once, and also to show everything to all your friends, then see what you’ve managed to keep them from borrowing, or rather what you managed to keep yourself from joyfully giving out, then start there, knowing the clock’s ticking and shipment number two will show up any day…)

Jon Curley (Rail): The UDP editorial board and its various production personnel operate as a collective. Can you detail the dynamics of this operation? What possibilities recommend themselves to this process? What are some of the difficulties of such an arrangement? This kind of cooperative seems a very Soviet-stylized ordering of function, in a positive sense. Given your personal background and some of your literary interests, is this intentional?

MatveiYankelevich: Okay, that’s a lot of questions. Let me start backwards: There’s nothing really intentional about it and there’s certainly nothing like a collective farm about it. Basically, it’s not like any communist or commune-like collective. Different people have different feelings of responsibility to the whole press or certain projects. I’ll back up: We started up with seven or eight people who wanted to start an exchange and decided to make books and the collective was a byproduct of that. So, the collective does not delegate anything—when people want to take things on, they take things on. There are 13 or 14 collective members now, some of whom are of the original collective, and there are also interns and everything happens independently. Different editors come up with different ideas and then, other people, whatever they think about the project, will help out. “I’ll help you with this or that, I’ll help bind that book.” It’s like people sharing a photography darkroom, which I guess is an outmoded example, but as with that, people share resources and everything becomes more streamlined in a shared-resource model. We don’t all agree on one aesthetic. It has been somewhat confrontational in the past in terms of choosing this or that, and it can get anarchic, but we all are guided by the principle that we’re not here to do commercial books or make money or profit. So there are certain things we agree on. I guess there’s a sort of de facto range of aesthetics and it’s very eclectic.

Read in full here!

New review of Touch in the Quarterly Conversation

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

If you haven’t already, head over to Quarterly Conversation to enjoy the new issue (and I say that not only because there are several pieces on books we’ve edited). As always, it’s a wide-ranging, thoughtful, and thought-provoking offering. But this post is to note that it includes an excellent new review of Touch:

Adania Shibli’s American debut is a visually striking composition of interconnected prose poem-like vignettes that follow a young girl living on the West Bank of Palestine. The novella’s short numbered sections, which comprise the larger chapters of the book (“colors,” “silence,” “movement,” “language,” and “the wall”), house intimate scenes imprinted with the events that lay just outside the girl’s immediate perspective—from the death of her brother to the violent political context. These surrounding events are so delicately incorporated into the girl’s perceptual realm that scenes often feel as if they were ekphrastically derived from a photograph or painting. Shibli achieves this cohesion through the book’s polished and fluid prose; sensory details are foregrounded over the trajectory of narrative sense-making, and the circumstantial themes of the text (family life, love, death, political strife) unfold the way a narrative might enter into one’s experience of a painting—their impacts permeate throughout the text, but rarely are they explicitly depicted or referenced.

Read the rest here.