Making a Book
March 25, 2012

12bA couple of months ago, Lev Raphael e-mailed me to ask if he could turn his columns from Book Brunch into an e-book. Of course, I said, and please let me know when it was available. It now is. I found out about a week ago that it is now available in both Kindle and Book Nook versions. And it’s glorious. But to find out why and how he did it I asked him a few questions.

Lauren Roberts: Why do you like writing for BiblioBuffet?

Lev Raphael: I’ve written for print magazines and newspapers and never before had total freedom to choose my books that I have for BiblioBuffet, where I can also write about reading, writing and anything book-related.

Lauren: How do you see your columns?

Lev: I write to share my enthusiasms, to grab someone by the elbow and call their attention to a book they just have to read.  I also see myself as repoing from the publishing front and offering readers an inside view of the author’s life.

Lauren: Why did you decide to put a book of his columns together?

Lev: I put Book Lust! together because I wanted people to have the best essays I’ve done for BiblioBuffet available in one book. Like any collection—fiction or creative nonfiction—when you gather individual pieces together, they’re changed by their neighbors, or they need to be changed for any number of reasons. That  meant everything went through yet another set of edits and various pieces were moved around more than once to create a better flow. It’s choreography on the page. Or, on the screen since it’s an original e-book.

Lauren: Is it fun reflecting on the different aspects of Book Lust!?

Lev: I’ve been publishing for thirty years and everything I write is fun—if it's not fun, I can’t write it!  Arranging these essays in a book was like going over photos of terrific vacations, the memories just flooded back.

Lauren: What are a couple of your more memorable experiences with writing your columns?

Lev: Occasionally I’ve “lost” one, when I actually renamed it and so it’s a different file. The panic eventually recedes, but there are moments when I’m as crazed as Eddi Izard fighting with his computer. Once someone misread a column and insulted me; I turned the other cheek: that is, I deleted his email.

Lauren: How does lust for books differ from lust for people?

Lev: Books can also break your heart, but they’re usually still there the morning after the night before.

Lauren: What prompted you to put these columns together now?

Lev: I thought after a few years it was time to take stock, pick the best ones and offer them to readers as a package.

Lauren: What was the process? Did you enjoy it?

Lev: Cutting, pasting, reminiscing, editing, laughing, getting them copyedited, hiring someone to do the formatting. The most fun was picking the cover and working with my web designer on the font. She got it right almost instantly, so the book felt lovingly launched.

* * *

Even though I don’t own an e-reader and thus cannot buy the book I now own a Word copy of it. It’s not the same—I’m missing the cover and the formatting—but I like it. Being one of the editors of BiblioBuffet I am accustomed to seeing columns on a weekly basis. But Lev is right when he says that individual pieces are changed by their neighbors. (That probably explains why I am attracted to collections of essays either by writers I read or multiple writers’ pieces grouped under a theme.) Reading these as a collection is different. Vive la différence!

Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
People from Maine to California have the opportunity to check out some local book fairs this weekend. So if one of these is in your area, why not head over there and see what is happening.

Location: Portland, Maine
Site: Various venues
Festival: Maine Festival of the Book
Date: March 29-April 1
Four days and seventy-five authors, artists, and performers come together to celebrate the books—and with the sole exception of Opening Night, a benefit fundraiser with Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Horwitz, it is all free. The events of the festival open on Thursday with an Evening with John Cole, then continue with a Book Arts Bazaar, readings and panel discussions, book sales, signings, and performances, then concludes on Sunday evening with a dramatic reading of literary selections.

Location: Long Island, New York
Site: Hofstra University Student Center, Multi Purpose Room
Festival: Long Island Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair
Date: March 31-April 1
This antiquarian book fair takes place on Saturday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for those ages 12-21, and free for those under 12 with a paid adult. There will be three dozen exhibitors with books and related paper in all genres, and you can even get free appraisals of your own books.

Location: Anarchist Book Fair
Site: SF County Fair Building (Hall of Flowers), Golden Gate Park
Festival: San Francisco, California
Date: March 31-April 1
Not to everyone’s taste, I’ll admit, but thankfully we live in a country where these kinds of fairs can and do exist. This free two-day event is offered by Bound Together Bookstore and brings together radical booksellers, distributors, independent presses, and political groups from around the world—more than forty vendors—with books, pamphlets, zines, and art as well as speakers and panel discussions on radical histories, current events, organizing for better tomorrows, and more. There is also a special kids space and free bike parking. The eve of the show offers an Anarchist Café, from 7:00-111:00 pm with food and performances.

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Site: Unknown
Festival: Latino Book & Family Festival
Date: March 31-April 1
This website is primarily in Spanish, which makes sense, but unfortunately limits what I can say about it as I don’t read or speak Spanish. They do appear to have a great line-up with authors, Hispanic celebrities, dance and cultural events, and of course the appearance of Edward James Olmos.

Location: Lansing, Michigan
Site: Lansing Center
Festival: Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show
Date: April 1
From 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, this antiquarian show will host more than seventy vendors with literary offerings ranging from ads to trade cards and of course lots of books. Admission is $4.50 though the link above provides a link to a coupon entitling attendees to one dollar off the cost.

The Pub House:
AK Press is by its own admission, “a worker-run collective that publishes and distributes radical books, visual and audio media, and other mind-altering material.” Their mission statement is long but worthy of being quoted in part here because it is so interesting:

We're small: a dozen people who work long hours for short money, because we believe in what we do. We're anarchists, which is reflected both in the books we provide and in the way we organize our business. Decisions at AK Press are made collectively, from what we publish, to what we distribute and how we structure our labor. All the work, from sweeping floors to answering phones, is shared. When the telemarketers call and ask, "who's in charge?" the answer is: everyone. Our goal isn't profit (although we do have to pay the rent).

Anarchism doesn't tell people what to do. It tells them that they have the ability to make decisions about the issues that affect them. Anarchism, and the anarchist movement, is about emancipation, empowerment, and agency. AK Press draws on a rich history of folks from all over the planet and from all walks of life who have imagined, fought for, and actually achieved something better.

The AK Press collective functions with a high level of organization and accountability. We work a minimum of forty hours per week, plus additional nights and weekends. We have regularly scheduled meetings to share information about the different aspects of our business so we can make collective decisions on a wide range of issues: the items we publish and distribute, our overall financial health, our political direction, the events we host and attend, the mutual aid we offer to other groups, and whatever else comes across our desks. There’s definitely something strange and contradictory about the concept of an anarchist business. AK Press works hard to destroy and move beyond capitalism, toward a non-exploitative, sustainable, and just economy.

We operate without a corporate structure. No boss, no managers, no bullshit. We’ve replaced hierarchy with cooperation, accountability, and responsibility of our individual members. New ideas aren't generated by specialists in air-conditioned offices, but in open meetings—where ideas are discussed freely and a course of action is decided democratically by everyone directly affected by the decision. How many sick days can we take? Should we carry the new South End Press book? What out-of-print anarchist classic should we make available again? Who will table at the New Orleans Bookfair? How can we increase the diversity of our collective and publishing list? We answer questions like this every day—dozens a week, hundreds a month. Sound tedious? Sound empowering? Sound exciting? It’s all that…and more. It’s our way of developing the skills necessary to administer our own work lives. It’s our way of creating the better world we carry in our hearts, and trying to live it in some small way while carrying on the legacy of those revolutionaries who came before us. Yes, we are continually battling the constraints of a market economy, but we’re also learning the pathway to autonomy, while challenging some of the most basic structures of capitalism. Freedom is a constant struggle.

And now for their books, of which they have many divided into more than fifty categories ranging from Anarchism to Work. So even if you are confirmed capitalist you’ll probably find something you like. Among their books you’ll find a number of interesting cookbooks including the unusual Dining in Refugee Camps: The Art of Sahrawi Cooking, which is a 50-page journal that examines “the art of Sahrawi food production and encompasses photographs, recipes, histories, and drawings by a woman who was invited, as a guest artist, to participate in ARTifariti 2009, and stayed a month while cooking with the women of the Western Sahara. Los Angeles Stories is a collection of “loosely linked, noir-ish” tales in post-WWII Los Angeles that span old neighborhoods and odd characters—musicians, gun shop owners, streetwalkers, tailors, door-to-door salesmen, drifters, housewives, dentists, pornographers, new arrivals, and hard-bitten denizens—all entwined in “some kind of shadowy activity.” Fans of Raymond Chandler and other hardboiled writers are going to love this one. Intelligent political fans of any persuasion will want to have a look at Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, which explores how the great promise of an Obama revolution fizzled out even before he took office. Make no mistake; this is a “scathing indictment” of his presidency from many well-known left-leaning American writers that has something for everyone. Contributors include Kevin Alexander Gray, Jeremy Scahill, Joe Bageant, Marjorie Cohn, Brian Tokar, Linn Washington, Jr., Ronnie Cummins, Kathy Kelly, Tariq Ali, Ralph Nader, and more.

Imaging Books & Reading:
Lolita is a novel that has become a classic and along the way collected plenty of criticism for its story. Its cover designs over the years have also attracted a lot of attention, and recently architect and blogger John Bertram sponsored a cover competition to see if today’s designers could reflect better the dark side of the novel. In this article, Bertram discusses his motive behind the competition; it also showcases some of the designs that will all be part of the upcoming book, due out in June, and composed of essays and new cover treatments.

Of Interest:
Travel back with me in time when writing and illustrating were hard work but the results were incredible. Fortunately, it is not us, the admirers, who have to deal with less than ideal working conditions. And the monks complained too. Yes, they did, and you can enjoy those in Oh My Hand: Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts.

Until next week, read well, read often and read on!




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