Making a Book
A 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:
Location: Portland, Maine
Location: Long Island, New York
Location: Anarchist Book Fair
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Location: Lansing, Michigan
The Pub House:
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:
Until next week, read well, read often and read on!