The following is a message about an interesting new book project:
We are very excited to announce the coming existence of The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature. The Catalog is to consist of a series of blurbs/short descriptions of books that do not exist. In order to compile that Catalog, we have asked many of the writers, theorists, and text-makers we most admire to imagine that they’ve just read the most amazing book they’ve ever encountered and then write a brief blurb about the imagined text.
As many of you know, The phrase ‘potential literature’ is highly associated with the Oulipo group. We choose to use the phrase here because, as the Oulipo says, their project, properly, is to conceptualize forms and potential works: not necessarily to bring them into being. Literature is potential literature when it is that shimmering non-work of total possibility. Though Official only by way of titular hyperbole (itself, like the blurbs contained within, a kind of unfulfilled and unfulfillable promise), the Catalog will evoke a library of wonderful–maybe even impossible–books; books that, in spite or even because of their non-existence, excite and fascinate. Each paragraph will be the promise of the unopened book in the moment before reading.
We have been incredibly fortunate to be able to work with many fantastic people on this project. Willows Wept Press has agreed to release the Catalog in a limited print edition, and about 50 of our very favorite writers in the world have agreed to contribute blurbs. We already have excellent work on hand from writers including Vanessa Place, Diane Williams, and Warren Motte.
That said, we are opening the project to public submissions because, while we’re excited about the writers and theorists with whom we are currently corresponding, we are still looking for more talented minds whose texts should also fill the pages of our book. We have full confidence in you, readers, and would love to see your blurbs among the other terrific blurbs we’re collecting.
We have decided that the best way to go about exploring public contributions is to blindly review your texts, should you be interested in submitting a blurb for consideration. In this way, we will be able to consider the work you submit in an objective and relatively professional manner.
Also, know that we are discussing the possibility of an extended, online edition of this book–to be released after the book’s initial printing. We might find it wholly appropriate to save some of your blurbs for this edition, as we need strong contributions for both versions. All submissions will be considered for both print and online publication. Please note if you do not wish for your work to be considered for publication online.
So, to the meat of things! Submission Process:
If you are interested in submitting a blurb for consideration, please email potentialbooksbook<at>gmail<dot>com. Your subject heading should read: [Name], Open Blurb Submission. While it’s okay to have your name and maybe a cute message in the body of the email, your actual blurb should not appear in the body of the email. Instead, please send your blurb as an attachment. The attachment should NOT include your name. A third party will have access to the potentialbooksbook account and s/he will collect, number, and print each of your attached submissions for our consideration. Only after we have thoroughly read your submissions will we then pair them with their respective emails.
The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2010.
If you have any questions (not submissions) about the project or the submission process, please email either benbensegal<at>gmail<dot>com or erinrose.mager<at>gmail<dot>com. We’re happy to try and answer your queries and will be totally excited to learn of your initial interest!
Finally, if you have any suggestions of other writers we ought to contact (whether they’re your friends who are doing cool stuff or more prominent writers, thinkers, and text makers from whom you’d love to see a blurb), please send your ideas to either of the above personal email addresses. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading this far and thank you, preemptively, for your mind blowing submissions.
Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager
Black Clock, a lit mag from Cal Arts, has posted an interview on their blog with the editors and designer of Birkensnake, which they call “one of the swankest journals out there.” I couldn’t agree more (and have said so in the past). The interview—“Birkensnake: The Mutant Left-Behind Cousin You Always Wanted“—was conducted by Elizabeth Hall.
Both Birkensnakes were easy to design because the writing in them is so visually rich. The designs are somewhat literal collages of images present in the text. Birkensnake One has the beefhead from Sam Roberts story and Birkensnake Two is a mash of different things- Blake Butler’s hive, Caren Gusoff’s semiconductors and capacitors, Matthew Pendleton’s cone, etc. Both issues were made under a lot of time pressure, especially the second issue, in which I traveled to Providence from Alabama, with 5 days for both the designing and printing. So we didn’t really have a lot of time for fiddling around- on both issues we used the first design I came up with. The construction is collaborative. I came up with the general structures (I study Book Arts- the first is a simple double pamphlet with wraparound covers, and the second is a long stitch style) but both Joanna and Brian have a good intuition for how materials work and a willingness to get into new things and figure them out, so we all worked on it together.
Providence has this awesome place where you can get left over industrial materials for 10 cents a pound, so we went there and found the radiology folders. They were too good to pass up so we decided to use them not knowing how they would react to the ink or fold or tear or wear over time. For the second issue Brian got very excited about branding or burning elements of the design, and then he found the flocked paper (at the above place). He and Joanna did a couple of test burns and mailed them to me so I could think about it, but we still really had no idea how the burning would interact with the ink until we took the printed covers to the park and blow torched them.
There is a great conversation going on about lit mags in the comments section of VQR editor Ted Genoways’s recent article for Mother Jones, “The Death of Fiction?” Comments from Gina Frangello (the new TriQuarterly), Matt Bell (The Collagist), Timothy Schaffert (Prairie Schooner), Genoways himself, and many others.
We’d like to invite editors and writers to participate in our new series on issues and representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality in independent publishing. How do these issues affect you as an literary magazine editor interested in publishing underrepresented communities, or a writer who wants to challenge dominant notions of identity? What are your thoughts, concerns, ideas about how literary communities reinforce, respond to, and confront racism, classicism, sexism, and homophobia?
Contact Marcelle Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our recent interview with Laura van den Berg, author of the acclaimed collection What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us from Dzanc books in October 2009, van den Berg discusses the amount of research (or lack of?) she puts into her stories in foreign lands, and so reminding us in an age of spectatorship and narratives of experience, fiction is a literature of make believe. From the interview:
Laura van den Berg: I’m a visiting professor at Gettysburg College this year and, in a recent discussion with students on research in fiction, I found myself extolling the virtues of Wikipedia, forgetting they’ve likely been hearing all their academic lives that Wikipedia is the devil’s work—until, that is, I registered that the entire class was gazing back at me with expressions of abject horror.
So, as you can probably gather from that anecdote, I’m not a terribly rigorous researcher. I always do some research—hopefully enough to not make any major blunders, though I’m sure I have made some—and I like to look at photographs and listen to recordings and read up on the things that intrigue me. But I’m not exactly looking for facts; rather, I’m seeking the details that allow me to begin entering the world of the story—in the title story, for example, it was discovering the detail of the red dirt in Madagascar that made the story begin to take shape for me. I’m really interested in place, but more in the metaphorical possibilities of a setting and landscape as an instrument of pressure than adhering to some larger, factual reality.
I also don’t perceive the setting in my stories as being faithful renderings of the literal places; the Madagascar in the title story is not the real Madagascar, but my own fictional approximation. I haven’t been to a lot of the locales in the collection, though I used to live in Boston and have been to Paris a few times. This seems to disappoint people sometimes, probably because “autobiography” and “authenticity” are so often conflated—“But then how do you know X detail was real?” I’ve been asked. Fair enough, I suppose, but what does it mean for something to be “real” in a story? My feeling is that the only reality that matters is that story’s reality, so as long as the details, whether factual or invented, are things the reader can believe in, I have no qualms about making things up.
Roxane Gay—noted writer in many online and print venues and assistant editor at PANK, an up-and-coming young literary magazine from Michigan—writes at Luna Park about what she sees as a lack of writers of color in the literary publishing world. Gay’s essay on Luna Park is a follow-up of sorts to a blog post she wrote earlier this summer for the PANK blog—her main point perhaps summed up in her second paragraph: “I am consistently frustrated, frightened, and freaked out by the lack of people of color in the publishing world in 2009(!), and particularly in independent publishing.”
The post drew lots of attention, commentary, and, at times, some criticism of Gay’s position. For example, from fgrayson:
i’m not frustrated with this talk as these are good things being discussed but i’m frustrated at the fact that people are acting like what’s going on in indie publishing is way different than regular publishing and that there’s some sort of insidery bs going on in indie publishing when it’s open to anyone who has the time to throw together some paper or a blog
In this follow-up (or response) for Luna Park, Gay tries to be clear in stating she has no solution for what the problem she perceived in publishing, but offers her essay up something of a sign on the side of the road, a notice to writers, editors, and readers that a problem might exist, and that they might want to look around.