How this post came about: I got a somewhat depressing Google Alert about the recent Small Press Book Fair put on by NYCIP. It was written by Carolyn Kellogg who runs a Book Blog at the L.A. Times. Apparently –very few people showed up at a Book Fair (in Manhattan, at 20 W.44 St) that I have done from the very beginning.
Herewith, my response to Ms. Kellogg’s comment. As you can see, I got a bit worked up about it all –about the need for Small Press, and about how precarious it is right now.
I’m interested to have your comments to this:
CAROLYN KELLOGG THE L.A. Times DEPRESSING REPORT ON the 2010 NYCIP SMALL PRESS BOOK FAIR.
My name is Malachi McCormick; the name of my press is the STONE STREET PRESS. My books are all handmade and they sell at very affordable prices [Range: $4 for “How To Make A Decent Cup of Tea” to the most expensive, $35 for “RANAPHILIA: Love of Frog” –three miniatures in handpainted slipcase.]
I started my press back in 1980 –with absolutely no resources, unless you count my…resourcefulness. Oh, and, of course, my love of books, and my special regard for Small Presses.
I have shown my books at the NYCIP’s Small Press Book Fair from the very beginning –up to and including 2009. I didn’t go this year –2010. I wished I could have, but didn’t go. I was working on my latest book, “This should never have happened” (my magnum opus, btw) which just was not ready. Now that I read the Fair wasn’t very successful, I don’t feel quite so bad. I would have felt much worse had I rushed the book!
Carolyn Kellogg’s piece in the LATimes was a little depressing to read (OK –MORE Than A Little Depressing –MTALD) The fact that the fair was very poorly attended was also MTALD, as was the information that fewer exhibitors turned up.
Recriminations –I can reveal here, right now– will not be productive. Criminations, hardly less so. There are things to be fixed,no doubt, but in this climate, where we all are clinging on by the skin of our teeth, fixing those things do not, in my opinion, loom all that large. SURVIVAL! That’s the big issue.
The way forward? Dubious, I would say, but also –I would say– not without hope.
Why hopeful? Frankly, because we (–We The Culture!–) need the stories. Not the money-driven, ratings-driven toxic trash that assails us from all sides, and is beginning to define us –BECAUSE WE DON’T DEMAND ANYTHING BETTER. Our Low (Money & Uncaring) Culture is defining us to the world, and it is defining us to ourselves!
We need stuff that is real and wise and cares about how we are doing, and where we are going. We need to bring out the best in ourselves. (That’s the way forward; how long we can deny it, is the real issue.)
Why am I hopeful –in the face of all this?
Because –we need the stories, frankly. In my 30 years I have done some 60 titles –many of them connected to Irish culture, Irish literature. About halfway through my 30 yr. career I decided to start publishing some of my own writing (I didn’t care if anybody thought it was self-serving –they didn’t have to buy the books; I suppose it helped any “issues” of confidence that Clarkson Potter/Random House published three of my books — and did very well with them.)
I have loved all the books I’ve done in 30 years, but my latest book “This should never have happened” (–out soon; catch the news on my website, www.stonestreetpress.com) I regard as not only the best thing I have ever done, but the most satisfying, and –yes– the most important. Of course, my opinion will not count for much. As Nietzsche said –more or less– “When your book comes out, shut up about it, and let it speak for itself.”
“This should never have happened” were the dying words of a great & resolute Irish patriot (named Liam Lynch, 1893-1923) who gave everything in the deadly struggle to win Ireland’s freedom and independance (from 1916 to 1923), but who ended up on the wrong side of history and was blamed –with a lot of justification– for the bitter Irish Civil War of 1922-23, which it was his casting vote –as Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA– to end. In our polarized, partisan world, a few people thought Liam a hero; most regarded him as the cause of the bitterness and therefore, the villain. Our polarized, partisan world feels threatened by dimension, inner conflict, doubt, insight. It doesn’t like to be left with…QUESTIONS. (As I observe in my book, “Self-exculpation –not Sex– is our primal urge.)
General Liam Lynch was my uncle. More to the point, Liam was my mother’s cousin. Their families were close; Liam worked for four years as an apprentice in my grandad’s hardware store in County Cork. While he was alive, he and she were close friends, and it was her insights and her connection to him –and my mulling the case all my life; I’m now 72– that form the core of my book, “This should never have happened.” Liam uttered those words the day he died, shot by the “Free-Staters”. It is authoritatively claimed that Liam had decided to make a truce to end the bitter war –maybe even on that very day.
The story of Liam Lynch is the extraordinary story of one young man, a leader in the guerilla struggle against the British Empire, and Winston Churchill’s war against him and the others.
The younger Winston swore that Ireland would NEVER be given its freedom. Liam Lynch swore that he would live under “No Other Law” but that of a full Irish Republic of 32 Counties –his reason not sign the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Two headstrong individuals –in a struggle that Liam won, by the way!
It is a story full of drama and courage and determination, but it is also a story of great tragedy which I tell in the new book, a long story poem, perhaps a modern-day equivalent of the old Irish epics, if you like.
But it must be said that the real message of this book has to do with the Ireland of today, with the tenuousness of the peace agreement of 1998, which even a few weeks ago, was in grave danger of collapsing, and the extremist violence that still threatens the peace –some of it from a few people (“Marxist IRA” bomb-extremists) who apparently regard themselves as the true inheritors of Liam Lynch.
Everybody needs to read my book, but especially these extremists.
They need to hear the dying words from Liam Lynch’s own mouth, addressed to all, but especially to them:
“THIS SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED!”
[You may think I have gone off the point, starting as we did with the Small Press Fair in New York City, and maybe we have a bit. But –in a far more important sense, we haven’t. It is Small Presses, such as my own little press, that get to these important stories that make up the fabric of our world. To quote one of my own heroes –if I did have “heroes” he would be on my list– Saint Colum Cille at the Convention of Druim Ceat in 575 AD who defended the poets that the kings wished to banish: “Since the Whole World is but a story…we need enduring stories…that are well told…rather than the ‘badly told stories'”.
A saint ahead of his time!