I recently had a German houseguest who was visiting the US for the first time (side note: he will be translating a story of mine for an Austrian anthology being released in November in Europe). Of course because the two of us are pseudo-writers, we had to hit up many book stores and I dragged him to literary events around the city. I always thought the books being published in Germany, et al were beautiful and looked like more craft was paid than over here in the States. He mentioned that the US editions were creative and came in all different sizes. But then…
We came across a copy of Anne Carson’s new translation, Antigonick being published by New Directions. A friend showed it to us and it is truly fantastic. In co-production with a visual artist, Antigonick is cloth-bound and offers translucent pages by the artist that cover Carson’s handwritten text. It is a complete artistic experience provided by New Directions. The words become art and the visual art becomes part of the text.
In an age when publishing is going down the tube and the reading audience (myself included), sometimes shops with its eyes, these smaller presses are wise to put exhaustive energy into their product. Many of these smaller presses are doing a great service by publishing long forgotten writers, works in translation, or exciting new writers that need exposure on the market.
Unfortunately, New Directions is no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts or queries, but perhaps, if the book industry gets back on its feet, small indie presses can offer this courtesy once again.