Publishing houses occupy a unique position in the world of collective culture. Much like their equivalents in wider creative distribution – the gallery, the record label, and new restaurant – they intrepidly bring forth the new article for our consumption and ensuing evaluation. I have always admired this platform from which creativity is heralded, and in general, try to stay immersed in the flow. This perpetual swirl, albeit exciting, with its new flavors and designs, mixes, beats, and unyielding texts, can often become overwhelming; the steady tap morphed into a fifteen-headed hydra of decision: this revolving door can really lead to shutdown, apathy, dare I say anxiety, when it comes to consuming the new.
This is where I find publisher’s helpful. Several years ago, I was browsing shelves of used books, hundreds and hundreds of spines, printed in colors, type, names, titles, paper jackets from mid-century and before (ah those classics, usually adorned with the best designs, and alas, many forgotten authors) and of course the varied and many symbols adopted by the houses, all of which I felt somewhat adept at navigating – and yet, where do I start pulling? Then, having reached the Ws, I came across a thin, solid spine color, a simple visual respite, with neatly typed title and author, followed at the heel by a simple, clean logo: NYRB. That did it, the clean break from all the mashed up spine designs to something utterly…simple. I’d never seen the imprint before, enjoyed the strange, surreal cover art, the book felt nice in hand, and that was it, purchased. Edward Lewis Wallant’s The Tenants of Moonbloom, was an excellent read and my first foray into New York Review of Books Classics, an amazing publishing house, that turns out, has been around since 1999. I have begun seeking these gems out on my book excursions (the spines still, as they did then, jump out in brilliantly colored simple bands.) I found a new sign-post for helping me navigate the confluence of the new. The catch is, much of what they republish (though not all) is older, lost, forgotten material, that it appears in hindsight, is excellent reading. According to their site, the series:
is designedly and determinedly exploratory and eclectic, a mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.
Discovery indeed. Seek out these awesome books. There is something for everyone, and they never seem to disappoint. http://www.nybooks.com/books/imprints/classics/the-tenants-of-moonbloom/