25 July 2007

Finding gems in the crush of books

In the fractured world of fiction, where every book is genrified, many readers smash the booksellers' genres to make their own. A friend who seems to have taken a vow of poverty in his job choices escapes into fiction he classifies as 'medium depressing'.

Another friend escapes her daytime job of courtroom murders, with romance; but not any love-clutch. Her genre is: but since her life is based on mysteries, I'll leave you to solve this.

Then there are the people (mere acquaintances– I wouldn't call them friends) who won't admit it because they're afraid of being classified, but they only read fiction by long-dead people. They have a hard time finding it in an honest-to-god book – that thing you can take to bed, crack the back of, and stain with abandon.

The crush
In the search for a good read, the job of genre crushing and then picking through the rubble to find gems is exhausting. There is so much to crush.

In Dust and literature, Chloë Schama writes: (The New Republic, 05.08.07)

For some time, Latin American writers have bristled at the literary characteristics fixed not only to their homelands but also to the entire region of Latin America. For these writers, the legacy of the "Boom" generation--the Latin American writers who introduced Spanish-language literature to a mass market in the 1960s and 1970s--was both a blessing and a curse. Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, and others paved the way to an English-speaking audience, but the path was narrow, and largely dependent on the writer's facility with the formulas of magical realism. In 1996, a group of writers led by the Chilean writer Alberto Fuguet published a collection of short stories titled McOndo . . .

A new publisher, Norilana Books, has tapped a rich vein of irreverence in: YA Angst An imprint that pokes fun at its own name.

Norilana's slogan is imagination on wings, and that is probably as good a label as any to put to its fast-growing range of classics and moderns, reprints and new works. Vera Nazarian is the name behind the name; and though she uses an almost conventional genre classification (including that horror, Women's Fiction), she is amassing a wonderfully accommodating range for readers of many tastes, especially those who like their reads to be ripping.

My murder-by-day friend would love Modean Moon; and because it's easy to be a Moon addict, she'll like the fact that Evermore is only the first title, with more coming.

And who couldn't crave Norilana's Curiosities?

Recently I almost vanity published here a bile-filled essay (till I came to my senses, knowing that you don't come here to slurp bile) expressing my revulsion for a certain publisher of long-dead writers. This unnamed firm scans books (and has the gall to say they own the copyright) and unfortunately, thinks the covers should bear some sort of graphics. One serious should-be classic of 1874 (by a woman who never signed her work, though her writing helped to support her husband's publishing habit) sports a cover in chick-lit pink with a (19)60s dippy-doo haircurl.

My personal favourite for the deceptively simple, but absolutely brilliant in book design is Persephone Books (I particularly love this almost unknown classic: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson). But Persephone only publishes reprints.

A slogan used by Norilana is Books in Beautiful Packages, and that is part of their appeal. I could fault Norilana for a sometimes less than sophisticated use of cover fonts, but there is thought put into the graphics on the covers, and inside the books. Take, for instance, Norilana's Villette by Charlotte Brontë. But that's old stuff. Works by modern authors and anthologies of new work are as thoughtfully produced, sometimes with such irreverence to genre covers that they're excommunicable.

New fiction
In the long run, the strength of Norilana Books will be in new works. I'm no reviewer of fiction and only looked up what 'trope' means a few months ago, so I don't plan to review any books as such. However, I will say that I have seen some pre-publication works and they (and Norilana's plans for the future) should be of great interest to many readers. I love the verve and irreverence, not to mention the fun that's in store with one anthology in particular. I am sorry to say, though: if you're looking for Medium Depressing, you will be unsatisfied.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back to blogging! I've missed your posts. I know what you mean about bile -- Locus has a reasonable policy of skipping books the reviewer hates (or trying to pass them on to someone with different tastes) rather than publish public trashings.

Sometimes I do enjoy a bit of bile, as vented on occasional threads of "Making Light" (my favorite discussion blog), but even then I start skimming once the tone becomes too sour. Lately, they've had a pretty amusing thread about "troll" techniques, and that one's easier to take.

anna tambour said...

Thanks Faren. That's a good policy, I think. You're given me an idea, too. A Bit of Bile could be a huge success as a blog (though maybe A Bit should be changed to Byte(s)?)