15 July 08 | Chad W. Post

One of the fun things about Book Expo America is that it offers a great opportunity to find out about new presses, magazines, bookstores, etc. It can be difficult when you’re blinded by the Random House fortress or the overwhelming Ingram “booth,” but there is a lot going on at the fringes.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but one of the cool new presses I found out about at BEA is Counterpath Press. Counterpath is relatively new nonprofit—I think they’ve published nine books or so—based in Denver. I haven’t seen any of the books, but the covers look pretty elegant, and their website is fairly slick. (Although reading white type on black is my least favorite thing.) Counterpath’s mission is pretty ambitious:

Counterpath Press is a new publisher of innovative and experimental poetry, fiction, and drama, as well as cultural criticism, scholarly work, philosophy, and theory. Our projects include full-length printed books, shorter chapbooks, a yearly review, conceptual projects, and internet-based material. We look for work that actively searches out new definitions of aesthetic experience and constitutes the best possibilities in writing, thinking, and the arts.

They have a number of interesting titles in their catalog—including Air and Memory by Franco Loi and Mopus by Oisin Curran, and they’re also publishing old/new Dalkey Archive editor Jeremy Davies’s first novel—but the book that caught my eye was Heimito von Doderer’s Divertimenti and Variations:

A story collection by the acclaimed Austrian novelist of the early and mid twentieth century, Divertimenti and Variations mediates traditional and experimental story technique to explore the authentic self and creates musically-based narrative forms. These narrative experiments were begun in 1923, not long after the publication of Joyce’s Ulysses, with its “Sirens” chapter structured like a fugue. Traditional psychological realism combines with four-part “symphonic” experimental form—complete with development, intermezzi, and thematic repetition and variation—to demonstrate how technique is adequate to reveal and resolve conflict. Love interests, family tensions, dreams forcing the dreamers to face their struggles, physical injury, a young blind woman’s gaining sight, insanity, unexamined lives—Doderer develops these themes by adeptly employing traditional representation, but he does so through innovative narrative structures grounded in the musical formalisms of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven.

Von Doderer is an Austrian writer who is probably most well known for The Demons, a mammoth novel (I own a three-volume edition that Quartet did a number of years ago) about the decline of European civilization. It’s been compared to Proust, Musil, etc., and seems to be out of print . . . Maybe Counterpath will help launch a von Doderer revival . . .

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