Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Look to Small Presses for Overlooked Treasures

"The past is simple enough. The future is what I find remote and difficult."

That's a line from Flann O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive. It was published in the early '60s and would have gone unnoticed by me had it not been for Stop Smiling magazine, which printed a small profile on the current American publisher of this book.

I'll not write unkindly of large publishing houses (for they one day may be the hand that feeds me). But I encourage you to seek out books from the small presses that take chances on authors overlooked by the biggies—authors unlikely to hit any bestseller lists or be read by a mainstream audience.

As for The Dalkey Archive, it provided some much-needed levity during my Lull and some delightful play with language. Plus, the quote above jumped out at me as the perfect description of the jobhunter's challenge.

I'll leave you with this passage from the book:

[De Selby] sat down at the piano and after some slow phrases, erupted into what Mick with inward wit, would dub a headlong chromatic dysentery which was 'brilliant' in the bad sense of being inchoate and, to his ear at least, incoherent. A shattering chord brought the disorder to a close.

—Well, [DeSelby] said, rising, what did you think of that?

Hackett looked wise.

—I think I detected Liszt in one of his less guarded moments, he said.

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