Vital Signs

The World of the Small Press

If your local bookstore does not stock Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson, Guilty by Georges Bataille, Altazor by Vincente Huidobro, Compact by Maurice Roche, Space in Motion by Juan Goytisolo, I-57 by Paul Metcalf, Concierto Barroco by Alejo Carpentier, or Cold Tales by Virgilio Pinera, you're living in a culturally deprived area.

All these books were published during the last year by small literary presses. In France bookstores are seen as cultural resources, but here in the States we make do with B. Dalton's. Unfortunately, the best way to determine if a bookstore is a literary bookstore is by counting the number of books they carry from the small literary presses. The above list would be a rough measure. If I said there were 20 bookstores in the whole country that had these books in their normal stock, I might be exaggerating.

If your local bookshop has even the slightest literary pretensions, it will make an effort to stock the Black Sparrow Press editions of Wyndham Lewis, Jack Spicer, and Charles Bukowski. If not, maybe we should remember that both Hemingway and Joyce were introduced to the world via the small press. I won't retell the whole history of the small literary presses, but I think it can be taken as a given that the small press is the home for whatever literary culture we have. (There is, of course, another whole...

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