16 December 08 | Chad W. Post

Alma Books—run by the former publishers of Hesperus Press, who, in addition to publishing their own line of fantastic book, acquired Calder Books last year—recently launched a book blog called Bloggerel.

I have to admit that I just found out about this yesterday, from our comments section no less, but based on the first few posts that I’ve read, it promises to be another great site to visit on a daily basis. (I would recommend subscribing to the RSS feed, but so far there isn’t one . . . )

Anyway, what was particularly cool to me was reading a long post from the legendary John Calder. The man who first published Beckett, Robbe-Grillet, Duras, Pinget, Queneau, and so on and so forth. He arguably did more over the past half-century for the production and promotion of international literature than anyone else in the world. Arguably. The stories about John are all fantastic and colorful, ranging from his driving tours of the U.S. selling books to independent bookstores everywhere, to the not-quite-as-pleasant stories about royalty payments, bankruptcies, etc., etc. It’s almost as if John’s from another time . . . one of the last true “publishing gentlemen,” who’s in it for the art, and does whatever he can to stay afloat and continue promoting real literature.

He’s written a few books about Beckett, and a controversial autobiography, but to see him writing for a blog is amazing. John’s a natural storyteller, a very compelling, enchanting figure, and hopefully he’ll share some of his stories via Bloggerel in weeks, months, years to come.

Anyway, his first post—“A Patched Up Affair if You Ask My Opinion” (T. S. Eliot)—is a bit of a rant about the current state of things and the way we’ve turned away from reading and learning.

Reading blogs about the position of publishing and all matters that touch the book, reading, the distribution of information, knowledge and culture quickly blends into the prevailing worldview of a period of growing catastrophe that anyone with the ability to think should have seen coming a decade ago.

Everything tries to imitate nature in Schopenhauer’s sense. That is to say that things get bigger and bigger and inevitably worse and worse because nobody can understand something that is too big. Every bubble must burst one day and plenty turns to waste. Schools are throwing out their libraries to make more space for computers, television sets and all the other placebos that replace reason based on thinking and the ability of minds to be individualistic.

And it ends with a bleak prognostication that contains a seed of hope for the future:

But one must always hope for change, and the present economic crisis, which will continue for at least a decade unless a world war or totalitarian regime forces us to face reality, may bring about a change of mind. The bursting bubble will bring much pain, but it might also bring relief. What is needed are a few great minds able to find a way to understand our situation and make us face the real world, not the chimera that press, politicians and ignorant celebrities put in front of us.

Agree or disagree with him, I think John Calder is a nice addition to the book blogging world.


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