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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The beauty of independent book publishers

Books have always been important to me – a library tends to grow wherever I put roots down for a year or so. Of course it is the content that drives my choice – but I notice that I am now giving attention to the format and aesthetics of the book itself. It was the font which started to arouse my curiousity – but then the layout, feel of the paper, design of the cover etc. American editions of books, I realise from the choices Vlad of the Frost English Bookshop in Bucharest makes, are often more attractive than the English edition – I had always appreciated their hard covers and the rough pages…..but now understand that the paperbacks are so much better.
Everyman’s library is a great hardback series - although it does belong to the Random House congomerate.
New York Review Books Classics are paperbacks which epitomise all that’s best about book aesthetics. But there are many small publishers I find myself increasingly drawn to – by virtue of the originality of their titles and production - Bitter Lemon PressSerpent’s TailPushkin PressOneWorldDedalus, HesperusEuropa Editions, Persephone Books 
A couple of years ago, the Guardian did a nice little feature on the growing importance of book design.
And bookporn is a site which gives visual expression to the sensual side of book appreciation.

Just as we need to treasure the independent bookshops which have managed to survive the onslaught of the larger bookstore chains and internet giants so do we need to recognise the value which the smaller publishers offer. So its nice to learn a bit about these companies eg Persephone. But it’s not only sad but dangerous that names like Penguin get eaten up in the capitalist onslaught (they’re now part of Random House).
Farrar, Straus and Giroux is another one which succumbed – and The New Yorker gives a nice history of the firm here. But the statistics on book publisher decline in the UK are gob-smacking - 98 fewer than last year!
I have no less than three Farrar books in the pile waiting for my attention - two collections of what look to be superb essays, one by the 1980 Literature Nobel prixe-winner Czeslaw Milosz - To begin where I am by  published in 2001. The other - Joseph Brodsky's Less than One published in 1987 - looks rather less impressive.
Also in the pile The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (pic above) of whom I have never heard; and a stunning take on the barbarities of the last century - My Century by Aleksander Wat 

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