Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Monday, November 14, 2011

Recommended: Michael A. Morrison interviews Zoran Zivkovic

Here's a link to a long and interesting interview: Zoran Zivkovic with interviewer Michael A. Morrison, the two talking about "middle-European fantastika" and other topics of interest. The first portion is "Fantastika and the Literature of Serbia." The second focuses on the shape of his life in words: "A career in transition: From scholar, translator and publisher to author of fantastika."

Via Jason Erik Lundberg on facebook.  And here's a bite from to allure you to read the whole thing:


ZZ: I am quite aware that the market is the best regulatory mechanism in many human endeavors. But not in all. If there is only the publishing industry—focused entirely, like any other industry, on profit at all costs—we eventually would end up with almost nothing but the most trivial of literature. The situation is governed by a simple equation:  triviality equals popularity equals marketability equals profit. There is definitely something fundamentally wrong with a system in which the decision makers—those who, in the final analysis, determine what we read—are my favorite villains: marketing directors and literary agents. Anna Karenina would have absolutely no chance with these guys. (The world of the publishing industry is the subject of my satirical novel The Book.)

My prime ambition is by no means to become a best-selling author, to get rich. My kind of fiction will always have a limited readership and I have no intention of changing it to make it more “marketable” or to increase the number of my readers. (Actually, even if I wanted to do that, I doubt I would be able.) Much more than quantity I am interested in quality when it comes to readers. My ideal is to have only quality readers, and they are, by definition, a rare breed.

It is no wonder then that all my attempts to find a major US or UK publisher have failed. My fiction simply does not fit the requirements of the publishing industry, at least not in the English language. Besides I am a foreign author. But I have no reason to complain. Nearly all my books have been published in the US and UK by small presses. These are mostly beautiful editions I am very proud of. My three Aio Publishing books are, as graphic products, real objets d’art. Also my seven PS Publishing books are exquisite limited editions.
I see small, independent presses as a sort of resistance movement. The enemy they are resisting is strong and merciless, but not without certain weaknesses. The more trivial books the publishing industry produces, the more small presses can publish quality literature, including translations. And small presses are very fortunate not to have marketing directors and not to need the services of literary agents. They could bring out even Anna Karenina.

7 comments:

  1. Yay for small presses indeed!

    Any suggestions of a similar kind for visual artists who are not doing just pretty pictures? :-)

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  2. marja-leena,

    I suppose the proper comparison would be between galleries and publishers, and the very wide range in kinds of galleries there are--as there are many sorts of publishers as well. And certainly there are many artists who follow the will 'o the wisp of a vision and who do not pander to what the New York marketplace loves. Or who do not hew to what is held up as "the coming thing."

    In rural places, I notice that galleries sometimes succumb to the idea that one must include everybody who is regional instead of having a coherent vision of quality. But not always. I was really taken with the whole concept of Paul Digby's currently on-going show. He curated it, he chose themes, he composed music for each of the three chambers, he requested work around the themes, he arranged for special evenings and times for discussion--he made a whole experience that I think would be interesting anywhere. And that was in Canton, Ohio.

    But I still haven't figured out for myself what the right path is in terms of having one's work seen and read!

    I think I'd like to have fewer readings in bookstores except where I have a base, and I'd like to do alternative venues--I'd like to be invited to come read by regular people who arrange audience and setting and so on. I have done that sort of thing with book clubs, but I'd like it even without the book club as a "reason." It might actually be more effective if the people organizing took it seriously.

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  3. Enticing people to come and view art is not nearly as difficult as enticing potential readers to book readings.
    The recent art show here drew well over a thousand people on the first two nights, and continues to draw people in.
    How would one achieve that with works of literature?

    I wondered about that last night and came to the conclusion that literature is something that people read privately, usually alone at home. Rarely aloud.

    If I were to stage a book awareness/book selling drive I would probably concentrate on the author personally, the craft and intricacies involved in writing secondarily, and the book itself thirdly.

    In other words, I would stage a presentation based on such themes as, "Why I do what I do, and why you may find that interesting". I, for one, find that sort of thing fascinating. I would want to know what made the author 'tick' and how that tick resolved into a 'tock'. What fires one, and why - about writing literature.
    I would explore the world of local art and offer a book of poetry up for interpretation by them. Stage a show and see what happens.
    With a novel, I would approach a local dramatic group (there are usually some rather good ones in most areas) and offer them the opportunity to stage something based on the novel.

    With accessible novels (yours are, Marly) I would approach libraries and convince posters into their foyers and a drive to highlight local authors and stage local 'talkbacks'.

    Local, these days, can equate to large numbers.

    As soon as work was sold abroad I would become an 'International Seller'. These days, 10 copies sold abroad and you could probably describe yourself as 'An International Best Seller'. : )

    I would also make short, complimentary cds available of selected readings at carefully chosen venues. They are incredibly cheap to produce.

    And then I would pray!
    But I would certainly continue to write and pursue all the traditional modes of publication as those modes slowly shift into more technologically-based distribution.

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  4. Paul,

    That show is so unusual; I am quite sure that those numbers are a jump from the normal in Canton, even though it seems to be quite arts-friendly! Proud of you...

    Of course, one issue is that some people's local is more fruitful than other people's local. The "fit" is easier some places than others. Cooperstown has a huge amount of support for the "Sunday artist," less for a serious painter, say. The Art Association has a small gallery, a rather large one, and a gigantic one... and they are fairly active. Then Glimmerglass Opera is the other mammoth in the room, though it is seasonal. Everything else is secondary. Or less.

    Those are all really interesting ideas, Paul. I shall think about them. I probably have more automatic support in North Carolina than in this area, where I have been for twelve years, although I do get a decent turnout for a library event and for talks.

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  5. Paul,
    It is true that a number of people who bother to ask questions at readings have that same question to ask about the generation of the work. But as a writer, I don't find that interesting to talk about. I don't know where it comes from, usually, and for me, the work is much more important than anything I have to say about it.
    But some writers may disagree. And on some occasions, like with my yoga poems, there may be a real story there to tell.

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  6. Marly,
    I am intrigued by the sound of this guy's book, and I'll have to ask my Serbian neighbor whether he's familiar with the guy's work.

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  7. Yes, I think you would find him interesting. I have some of his work from P. S. Publishing in the UK.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.