The folks from FOREWORD Magazine, a Small Press magazine that I’ve very much enjoyed checking out over the years, interviewed me earlier the year. I just came across it again and thought to reproduce it here. I’ll post their web address soon. Enjoy –if that’s the word.
[WARNING: If you detect a hint of flippancy….]
The Interview consisted of about 20 questions. I was given full license to wax –but, keep it short wouldja, buddy.
FOREPLAY: MALACHI MCCORMICK
Author, calligrapher, publisher, translator, and artist Malachi McCormick is the owner of Stone Street Press, where he produces handmade books. The Chicago Tribune once called his books, ï¿½The sort of timeless treasure youï¿½ll want to order.ï¿½
OCCUPATION: I run a small press (The Stone Street Press: Handmade Books by Malachi McCormick)
RESIDENCE: I live on Stone Street, the smallest street on Staten Island. It has only two houses on it (#s 1 & 5 –no room for 2, 3 & 4.)
WHY YOU KNOW THE NAME: I suppose you might have read one or more of my books, or, maybe you live at #5 Stone Street, in which case I hereby invite you for tea (by the way, I wrote the book on tea, How to Make A Decent Cup of Tea. Years ago I tried to teach America the ï¿½Howï¿½ of tea. It was a glorious if utter failure. Which puts me in line for a Medal of Honor.)
Or it may be that you just think you know the name. In 25 years I have been mistaken for Malachy McCourt (brother of writer Frank) at least 5,000 times, by people who cannot resist homophonic temptation. Itï¿½s a very interesting way to get to know somebody–by being mistaken for them. If you listen hard enough and long enough, you get to separate out the attributed attributes–any residue must accrue to him, Malachy, rather than me, Malachi.
IN HIS FREE TIME: Are you kidding? See ï¿½Occupationï¿½ above. But seriously, since everything is connected there is really no free time. Today, for example, besides working on my new non-fiction book, The Story of Hermann Gebler (a violinist flees Nazi Germany for Ireland), I fed the birds outside (mostly sparrows and mourning doves), watered my indoor herb ï¿½garden,ï¿½ did several of my Dot Paintings (3ï¿½x3ï¿½) (In 2007 I aim to do at least one every day) and played my (new) Yamaha keyboard, the best 149 dollars I ever spent. It sleeps with me, or I am embedded with it. Or something.
IN HIS FORMER LIFE: Some people see me as a monk–I tell them Iï¿½m working on my Hermitï¿½s License. If I could pick the former life, it might be Colum ï¿½Book of Kellsï¿½ Cille, Irelandï¿½s great book-saint –a Books Ireland review of my book on Colum Cille seemed to think I was already a reincarn. Or, Giordano Bruno –except this time itï¿½s the Inquisitorï¿½s flammable ass.
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?:
On Bullshit by Professor Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton Univ. Press). Read it before you become submerged in the B.S. apocalypse–a threat possibly even more serious than Global Warming, where at least we will still be able to see and breathe, sort-of.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO READ?
c. Beyond (especially on the Staten Island Ferry which is DESIGNED for reading.)
WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU VALUE PROFESSIONALLY?
Professionalism; upbeat niceness and kindness; low B.S. quotient; that ï¿½Itï¿½s-a-pleasure-to-do-business-with-youï¿½ attitude that lies at the core of book people.
WHAT ARE YOU STILL DETERMINED TO LEARN TO DO?
Make almond shortbread cookies in a microwave. Iï¿½ve done–or am doing–everything else, or am confident Iï¿½ll be able to handle it–as opposed to ï¿½determined to learnï¿½.
IF YOU WERE A MEMBER OF A TRIBE, what would be your special role in it, and why?
Questioner-in-Chief –to paraphrase Socrates, ï¿½the unexamined tribe isnï¿½t worth living.ï¿½ Homeland Security wants to examine your life for you, but I donï¿½t think thatï¿½s quite the same thing, is it?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE HOMETOWN LIBRARY AND/OR BOOKSTORE?
The famous, beautiful and enormous Room 315 at the Main NYPL Library on 42nd and 5th–designed by architects Carrere & Hastings, who also designed my local Stapleton, S.I., branch library–the only other NY library that they did, as it happens. That combination of Room 315 and Google-as-research is simply miraculous in its scope–it has all the answers; all we need are the questions, the curiosity. Books are getting better, will be better. Or, at the very least, can be better.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU ENJOY WHILE YOU ARE READING?
Where the unenhanceable pleasure of reading is involved, I go for ambient silence. Otherwise, my tastes are very ï¿½small cï¿½ catholic. I am an especially keen admirer, lover, of the popular song form, the art and craft of it, and the history of it.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAVE FROM YOUR HOME IF IT WERE BURNING?
Naturally, as a calligrapher, it would be the fifty-cent dip pens that I bought back in 1980 –if I were an arsonist I suppose it would be (what was left of) the box of matches: itï¿½s the continuity, I guess. Also, certain books, files, personal effects. Some shortbread. And of course my bicycle. (Iï¿½ve never owned or even driven a car.)
WHAT QUESTION HAS NEVER BEEN ANSWERED FOR YOU?
As a young boy my sometimes-exasperated mother would ask me: ï¿½What possessed you to…. (whatever)?ï¿½ I think that I probably need to hear that question every now and again.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE MOST PEOPLE TO LEARN ABOUT YOU?
That it was me who made ï¿½The Smallest Handmade Book in the Worldï¿½–3/32ï¿½ x 1/4ï¿½, with a .005mm stylus, without aid of any magnification. (Itï¿½s part of the SSP Complete Collection.)
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FIVE PEOPLE OVER FOR DINNER, WHO WOULD THEY BE?
For company? Besides Colum Cille, oh –Giordano Bruno, the Venerable Bede, Socrates, Harry G. Frankfurt, my mother. I really need to interview her for my Hermann Gebler book. (Only Harry F. is still in his current incarn.)
But if by ï¿½have for dinnerï¿½ you mean, as a cannibal: Oh, give me 24 hours to think about that one and Iï¿½ll come up with a short list. Tasty morsels, no doubt. Organic, of course –though that might be hard.
WHAT BOOK HAS IMPACTED YOU THE MOST AND WHY?
Besides Pooh? I think David Dirringerï¿½s enthralling The Book before Printing has to rank right up there, for scholarship and essential history.
WHAT IS YOUR PREDICTION FOR INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING IN 2007?
The last few Small Press Book Fairs that Karin Taylor and her team at the SP Center in New York have been so full –of diversity, of creativity and inventiveness, in a myriad of forms. And such energy –it leaves the mainstream way behind. It is one of the most encouraging things Iï¿½ve seen, or been part of, in the book world, and I see only good things. With all the communication technology developing, it still seems clear that it is Littera Scripta Manet –when it comes to ï¿½manet,ï¿½ it only ï¿½littera scriptaï¿½ that does the job. ï¿½Manetï¿½ is what makes for literature and literacy and literate. Otherwise, itï¿½s ob-literate, and ob-literacy. Itï¿½s a bright future –despite all the chaos in publishing and in media.