Posts tagged ‘small business’

Q & A with Marcelline Block

1) What are you currently reading?

Zoltán Böszörményi, The Club at Eddy’s Bar
Sarah Lewis, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery
Jane Mendelsohn, American Music
David Paradis, Flew Away
Jean-Michel Rabaté, Crimes of the Future: Theory and its Global Reproduction


2) Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to the publication of?

Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals


3) Are there standard titles or writers you like to recommend, either within or outside of your field?

Patrice Higonnet, Paris: Capital of the World
Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Film Makers; Dictionary of Films; French Film


4) Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so, can you share it and tell us why?

Although it’s difficult to choose only one book, a favorite is Colette’s Chéri


5) What’s next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?

I have several, and will keep you posted about them.

May 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Sale Starts TODAY

Book Culture’s Spring 20% Off Sale

Book Culture’s Annual Spring 20% Off Sale begins Friday, May 16th and will last through Sunday, May 18th at 7pm.

Everything in both stores will be 20% off, the usual restrictions do apply. All weekend we will be holding raffles to give away great prizes. Join us for a bagel breakfast Saturday morning, and a tea reception Sunday to thank all of our customers, neighbors, and friends.

If you can’t make it in the store, don’t fret! That weekend the sale will also be extended to our online consumers on, and phone orders as well. Order online or over the phone between Friday, May 16 and Sunday, May 18 to receive 20% all discountable items.

May 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

Q & A with Dan Gunn from Cahiers Series


1) What would you say is the mission of the Cahiers Series in general?

I think this is quite well described on the dust-jackets of the cahiers themselves where we say: “The ambition of the series to to make available new explorations in writing, in translating, and in the areas linking these two activities.”

To that I could add that our ambition is to publish texts which other publishers could not satisfactorily put out, because the relation of words to image is too intimate and complex (as in cahier no.14 with László Krasznahorkai and Max Neumann), or because the text refuses to fit comfortably into a single genre (as in cahier no. 9 with Simon Leys or cahier no. 21 with Anne Carson).

2)How long have the Cahiers been around? Could you say a little bit about the history of the imprint?

At our institution, the American University of Paris, we host a remarkable number of interesting guests and events. I came to realize after some years at the university that little trace remains of these events after they’re over. When it was proposed by our university president to start a Center for Writers & Translators, I thought it would be good to generate a publication that celebrates the many interesting people who pass through, and to commemorate the events we organize. This was at the origin, but very quickly the project became more ambitious, mostly because at that time – in 2007 – I met Ornan Rotem of Sylph Editions. It was he who gave a shape to the idea of a publication, and from the outset, with Cahier 1 by Richard Pevear, gave it a very distinguished and distinguishable layout and design. Since then we have collaborated in order to ensure that each cahier fits in with and at the same time expands the series.


3) For me one of the most impressive things about the series is simply the content. You’ve got writers like Anne Carson and László Krasznahorkai working together with artists like Max Neumann and Thomas Neubolt. You’ve even published the work of Nobel Prize laureates like Elfriede Jelinek. In one sense it seems like only a smaller press would take the initiative to make collaborations like this happen, but in another it seems like a miracle that a small imprint like yours has the resources to reach out to artists of such quality and diversity. Can you say a little bit about how you’re able to bring these artists together?

The answer is to be found, I think, in the first part of your question. It is precisely because we are a small operation, because we delegate no tasks at all, that we are able to speak to the writers and artists that matter to us.

    One of the gambits of Ornan Rotem, from the outset, was to do precisely what big corporate publishers cannot or choose not to do: make every cahier something worth owning, something that cannot be substituted by any technological device or support. Another was to make sure that we work with artists and writers (and translators) whom we admire and trust. Daniel Medin and I have a large circle of acquaintances, and we always find a way to get in touch with artists and writers who interest us. Most cahiers take a year or two to develop, since of course, this not being principally a commercial venture, we cannot expect our contributors to drop everything just to work for us. However great the celebrity or notoriety of a writer, s/he is approachable if one goes about it in the right way. For me, the right way means as directly and simply as possible.

What ensues, if there is interest, is a complex and often quite lengthy dialogue, as we see which artist might link well to which writer; and that is before we really get on to the editing side, which – because of the exigencies of the brevity that the cahier-form imposes – can be rather arduous and exacting. Then there is the designing proper, after which further discussions, and so on. What one needs for this sort of venture is above all: several sets of good eyes, a lot of editorial experience, and a good sense of what it means to collaborate.

Now that the series has been going so long and is achieving so much recognition, certain aspects are of course simpler, since it could be said to have “proved itself”. However, when faced with a very long text that wants to become a cahier, the essential editorial challenges remain those they were at the outset…


4) What about the design of the series? What made you choose the chapbook format, and how do you go about deciding how to incorporate the art with the text?

The choice of format and design is the doing of Ornan Rotem of Sylph Editions. He has explained something of his design philosophy in various articles that are available, and I would not dare to summarise it here. But you can derive its elements from any of the cahiers: clarity, consistency, design governed not by flashiness or gimmicks but by respect for the text; consideration given to every aspect of the finished work, from the colours, to the typeface, to the dust-jacket, to the choice of paper and ink, to the printing method, right down to the scent the cahiers give off when they come out of their boxes.

Ornan is someone who does not like to repeat himself, and for whom design becomes interesting precisely at the point where most publishers’ designers give up: which is to say where it becomes difficult, where a new solution has to be found. An example would be, again, no.14 with Max Neumann’s terrifying Animalinside. For that cahier Ornan had to devise a whole new printing method to face the challenge of the intense black that Neumann uses.

    As for how the images get paired up with the texts, that can come about in various ways, though the principle governing the choices doesn’t really vary: not to illustrate the text but rather to provide it with a parallel “text” against which it can shine the more brightly. Occasionally, an author comes with an idea in mind. More commonly Ornan proposes an artist or I do, or Daniel does, and then we see where that idea takes us…


5) As succinctly as you can, could you walk us through the process of putting out an edition of the Cahiers Series, or is each project different?

  • At least one year before a cahier needs to appear, contact an author and see if s/he might be interested in collaborating in the series.
  • Invite the author to submit texts that might possibly work in cahier form.
  • Choose one or several texts and try to edit them into a shape – with the author’s help – that can fit the series.
  • While doing this try to find an artist whose work might complement the texts; contact the artist and see if this might interest him/her; gather possible images.
  • Begin, with Ornan Rotem and Num Stibbe of Sylph Editions, to put together the cahier in its text and image.
  • Go through about 20 proof versions, trying to get it all right, appealing at this point too to our trusted band of readers who help us.
  • Write the jacket and belly-band material.
  • Print the cahier – this is all done by Sylph Editions at Principal Colour in Kent, England.
  • Daniel Medin ensures the publicity is already working for the cahier.
  • Ensure distribution of the cahiers through our distributor, Chicago University Press.
  • When possible, host the author for a launch party at the American University of Paris, and on occasion organize an exhibition for the artist at our university gallery.
  • Send out complimentary copies to readers and reviewers, follow up on reviews, give the cahier as full a life as possible.
  • Deal with foreign publishers who would like to publish foreign editions of the cahiers.


I may well have left out a few stages, since much of this has become a bit automatic by now. But what I should stress is that it all has to be done in a way that is both personal and personable. By far the most important thing to me is that author and artist be pleased both with the process and with the result. It is because this has – to the best of my knowledge – always been the case, in all the 23 cahiers published to date, that there is so much good will towards the series. And it is because we bring satisfaction that authors and artists are happy to go on helping us.


6) On the one hand we’re always reading about the death of print, yet on the other I think small presses are having something of a moment. Certainly some of the most interesting work being put out right now is produced outside the bounds of the larger publishing houses. Can you reflect on the challenges of remaining economically viable as a small imprint in what would seem to be a tough time for publishers?

We have been fortunate from the outset to have the backing of the American University of Paris. The sums involved are not enormous, far from it, but the consistency of support is absolutely vital, especially when working on a project like the cahiers where the lead-time between having an idea and seeing the cahier completed can be two or three years or more. But even with institutional backing one gets nowhere unless one has an original idea to which one feels a real commitment.

I really do believe that there can be more to publishing than the highly standardized forms that one sees in the shops. I was fortunate in that at just the right moment I met Ornan Rotem who was able to find a form for that belief, and for his own foresight that it was crucial to make objects that have an intrinsic value as objects, even before a reader gets going on their textual contents.

    The real challenge, then, is one not least of time and commitment. Doing what we do is immensely time-consuming, and the cahiers could be compared to icebergs, where only a tiny fraction is visible of the work that goes into them. If this is true of any book, it is particularly true of the cahiers where the range of expertise required to make them as good as they are is really very broad. To put it very crudely, one has to love what one is doing, at every step of the way; one needs a little luck; and in the end one has to hope that the public is ready to appreciate something that – ideally – does not too closely resemble anything they have had in their hands before…


                    Dan Gunn, Paris, March 2014


May 10, 2014 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

New Academic Titles

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May 6, 2014 at 6:25 pm Leave a comment

Q & A with Stephanie Del Rosso

1. What are you currently reading?
I’m a little late to the party, but Franzen’s The Corrections. Also, some friends and I dug up Mac Wellman’s Brooklyn College reading syllabus and are trying to plow through all of it. We just finished the Romans.

2. Why did you choose to pair Mixtape with Adiche’s Americanah?
Only because Americanah felt theatrical to me. It had been a while since I’d read a book both so gorgeous and upsetting, with a protagonist who makes you complicit in every narrative turn.

3. Are there standard titles or writers you like to recommend, either within or outside of your field?
In no particular order: God’s Ear by Jenny Schwartz, Gnit by Will Eno, Women Laughing Alone With Salad by Sheila Callaghan, The Brothers Size by Tarrell Alvin McCraney, The Flick by Annie Baker, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee. I also love the way Joan Didion talks about sauerkraut in “On Keeping a Notebook.”

4. Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to the publication of?
The new Marilynne Robinson and the chapbook that 826 is releasing by the students I teach poetry to at Bronx Leadership II.

5. What’s next? Any upcoming projects in the works that you can tell us about?
I’m in my good friend’s short play turned short film “They Have These Really Cool Bike Planters” this coming June. I’m also working on a 10-minute about a relationship in reverse and a new full-length loosely based on snail mail, prison, and kids.

May 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm 1 comment

You’re invited to Norman Finkelstein’s book launch party!


May 3, 2014 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Q & A with David Moscovich from Louffa Press

1) What inspired you to start Louffa Press and begin putting out chapbooks?

I thought it was time to give back to the community, so I started Louffa Press to provide a venue for writing I felt needed to be read. For years I had been publishing chapbooks in small batches and noticed that I gained a small but appreciative readership through those efforts. Gertrude Stein was originally a self-publisher and as she is a major hero, I thought I could do worse than to follow her initial steps. Once I gained proficiency on the letterpress I wanted to use that skill to further create not only an opportunity for writers of innovative fiction and poetry, but also to cultivate an outlet in a handmade, collectible, possibly even beautiful form. Design skills I acquired working in the internet boom I utilized for making the covers in digital form before going to letterpress, and it just all came together.

The first chapbook I made was by David Hoenigman, and I had the idea I should add a color photograph to the cover so that not only would it be letterpressed, but have another textural and full-color glossy element that contrasted nicely with the monochrome boldness matte of letterpress.

So I was partly inspired by a motivation to work on more selfless terms outside my own writing and performing practices. When I’m not writing another section in my novel or performing texts with a sound-art approach, I get satisfaction from assembling visual projects like these chapbooks. That is to say I like the fact it removes the focus from myself and highlights the work of other writers and poets, acknowledging that I am part of something greater. I am dedicated to Louffa Press as a project centered around my role as curator and designer, rather than as writer. Strangely enough, although the focus is so different than working with letters, when I am blocked in my own writing, I can shift my energies to Louffa, and in the same way the REM state is necessary for a good night’s rest — it replenishes my sense of well being sufficiently to release the muse and continue in pursuing my own obsession with language.  

2) Say a little bit about your setup. Where do you make these books? Is there a space devoted to Louffa Press?

I have had a great deal of support in terms of technical expertize from The Arm Letterpress in Brooklyn, and this year I will be working with The Center for Book Arts to print chapbooks, which I am excited about, as the CBA has been such a huge part of the artist book community in the New York since its inception in the 1970’s. I have changed from when I was in Japan, screenprinting at home with a DIY setup, basically using a lamp and doing the emulsion for silkscreen in the bathtub, then printing on the kitchen table or using a friend’s studio to do the squeegeeing. There is no such thing as doing this in a vacuum, so I’m really appreciative of everyone who is involved with the process, from the plate-makers to the authors and cover artists, as the case may be.  

3) Could you walk us through the process of making one of these books? You use letterpress printing on the covers and some of the interior pages. Can you describe what exactly that is for anyone who might not be familiar with it?

Sure. The letterpress I use is a flatbed, hand-cranked relief printing press with a motor-run cylinder which can be used with moveable type, and also with polymer plates. Moveable type in Europe took off around the 15th century. The Chinese were the first to have moveable type even earlier, but the letterpress came into being in the time of Gutenberg, and now they come equipped with motors that run the cylinders. The moveable type was a natural step-up from woodblock printing, which was dominant until moveable type came into being. The great advantage of moveable type is that you have individual letters that are mobile, whereas with the woodblock method it is a page by page endeavor. Moveable type can be lead-based but also woodtype, not to be confused with woodblock printing. But letterpress technology is complimented now by the use of polymer plates, which is what I typically use for the chapbook covers. For some of the covers I do use woodtype, especially if I want it to have a big impact with the typeface highlighted as the major design feature.

So it works like this — the moveable type is composed in reverse and then locked into what is called a chase on the horizontal bed of the press. Once it is secured I might run a test without the ink to see the positioning is correctly placed on the page where I want it. This requires inserting the paper and cranking the very heavy rollers so the paper is squeezed between the rollers and the type, and from the tremendous weight of the rollers, a relief impression is made on the paper, which should be thick enough to be noticeable without the ink. Once I am certain of the precision of placement, I take a rubber-based ink and spread that on the big steel roller as evenly as possible with a knife. Before electricity this was also done by hand, but now we simply flip a switch and the top steel and bottom rubber rollers will rotate against each other, spreading the ink all the way down to the cylinder underneath. Each page for printing is then fed and handcranked through so that when it passes over the inked up plates or type, it receives the impression from the physical weight of the steel, and the ink from the plate or type underneath. The rollers work in tandem to keep the plate or type inked up, but even then I occasionally will have to adjust the amount of ink by adding, spreading, and testing again. After I finish, the cleaning is done by lifting off the moveable rollers and washing out the ink with spirits. The whole process is joyful for me, and even the smell of the ink and the physical cranking gives me a kind of warm feeling. I might add another handmade element such as a hidden handwritten icon or a screenprinted design. Or in the case of the Steve Katz broadside, once the letterpress was done I numbered the copies by hand, he signed them, and they were ready for release.  

If it is a chapbook, which is usually the case, I need to assemble the parts through collating (ordering the pages in booklet form), scoring (making a fine crease down the center), folding and binding, which is usually done with a long stapler. Most of the chapbooks are editions of 100. I will number and catalogue them, and then they are ready for distribution.

4) Tell us a little bit about design. Each of your chapbooks incorporates different elements. Some are stapled, some are sewn, some have letterpressed covers, some are fully letterpressed. One even involves poems typed onto gold and silver foil with a ribbonless typewriter so that the letters appear in relief. To what extent does the content dictate the design elements of each book?

I try to make each chapbook its own individual thing. That said, there are some techniques I like to repeat, like the photograph and letterpress combined covers which I did for both the Wiggin chapbook and the Hoenigman chapbook from 2010.

The written language of the chapbook is related to the design about half the time, and the other half of the time, the design element seems to suggest itself without a palpable or recognizable connection to the content. Here are some concrete examples. The “X” in the David X Wiggin chapbook I used in the cover in a repeated motif because I think “X” is such a bold and robust letter, and it offers a semiotic playfulness inherent in its form; it is a letter but it is also a word, and also suggests several idiomatic usages. For the Mike Topp chapbook, it was more a case of having been influenced by artist movements like Futurism and Bauhaus, and trying to compose a visual ode, coupled with a feeling for what is possible or what might communicate well visually through the letterpress. I remember having conversations with Mike to the effect that he is influenced by visual art, especially pop art more so than literature, and so I may have taken his overall interest in modern art into consideration when thinking of a design appropriate for his work. But again, the relationship is not a straight line, as you can see that the cover for Mike Topp’s Fugitive Pope has little resemblance to anything pop art, in that it differs from a Warhol or Oldenberg influenced piece.  

As for the typewritten piece, it was a matter of convenience and experimentation in the best sense, and also a fondness for Cage, Ono, Higgins, Young, etc, and those scores that were composed largely on typewriters. The typewriter I had at that time had an old ribbon, and as I was waiting for the shipment for the new ribbon to arrive, I began to experiment on using the machine as a tool for relief printing without the ribbon. It happens that I found this paper with a fragile extra layer that responded to the hammers on the typewriter, and I liked the fact the reader has to turn the page to get the correct lighting in order to read it. It was also amusing to think of the double meaning of the phrase, “difficult reading” in this case applied both to content and physical form.      

With Jeff Grunthaner’s The Trrouble Wwith Suundayys, the design was more a compliment to the text between the pages and a natural extension of the culling and selecting I had done from the work he handed over. He sent me several poems that I had to reposition after resizing and do more experimenting with than usual because I wanted the form to be true to his original formatting, which was nothing like conventional block text, resembling at times a playful, pathological abortion of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry reformulated for free meta-verse and truncated storytelling.    

5) How do you go about reaching out to poets or writers whose work you want to collect in a chapbook? Are they ever involved in the design process?

To answer the first question, Louffa Press is open for submissions on a rolling basis from May to September every year, for both the online E-asy Journal, Scrubbadubdub, which is part of the Louffa Press website, and also for chapbook submissions. Authors find me but I also seek them out both here in New York and everywhere else.

With a lot of writers, I will approach them with a printing idea, they send me the text and I work with the form it reaches me. The authors I have worked with are more involved in updating me with newer versions of the texts if need be, and from my experience they are happy to leave the design to Louffa Press. I am open to the possibility an author may have both a chapbook and design in mind, but that has yet to happen. I do maintain transparency with authors on how the design is progressing, and if someone absolutely hates the initial design, I am responsive to that. All the ideas for design begin with my initial sketch and I approach an author with a complete idea that may need some minor trimming, or color options and the like. I am open to collaboration, though. With the Stacey Levine chapbook, the cover art was made by artist Beatriz Albuquerque, so that was a type of collaboration. I took her drawing file and sculpted the text around it, which was particularly thrilling to do and a simple collaboration because she works quickly and the results were immediately striking. It was easy to fit the type in with the movement of lines her drawing suggested.

6) How do you fund Louffa Press? Do sales pay for the printing of the books or do you seek outside funding?

Sales and fundraising both help cover the costs of printing the books, however the working hours are a labor of love. Any Louffa Press chapbook requires a lot of hours behind the scenes so that art appreciators can hold one of these chapbooks in their hands. Some Louffa Press projects have been funded through modest but successful online fundraising campaigns and by generous private donors, but the funding covers only the cost of materials. I have yet to ask for an amount that would include all the related expenses including labor for editing and design, screenprinting, updating the website, holding events, etc. I hope in the future to have the ability to pay artists and writers. All the authors and artists receive free contributor’s copies following the print run, and I am happy to say that will continue into the foreseeable future.


April 26, 2014 at 2:39 pm 1 comment

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