Middlebrow, highbrow. Books, books, books. I can curl up happily with Jane Gaskell’s fantasy cult-classic Atlan series, William Faulkner’s southern classics, Mrs. Humphry Ward’s Robert Elsmere, and Rumer Godden’s nun books.
I do have my brooding literary side: I earnestly reviewed small-press books for a now-defunct literary journal. And when I say “small” I mean publishers you’ve never heard of. I hoped to discover literary classics, but I became philosophical. Some were brilliant, others may have been published because the writer was the editor’s friend. Perhaps that is the case with all publishers.
But there are small presses and small presses. The best still publish the best. Among my favorites are Small Beer Press, established by Kelly Link and her husband; Melville House Books; Tachyon Publishing; Europa Editions; Michael Walmer; and Library of America.
If you’re looking for interesting small-press book, here are four I look forward to.
Sigrid Undset’s Olav Audunssøn: I. Vows, translated by Tina Nunnally (University of Minnesota Press). I am a huge fan of Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset’s Norwegian medieval sagas, which I’ve read over and over. The translator Tina Nunnally won the PEN/Book of the Month Club Award for her translation of The Cross, the third novel in Kristin Lavransdatter. She has recently translated Olav Audunssøn, another medieval saga, best known in English as The Master of Hestviken. Nunnally has reverted to the original title, Olav Audunssøn, which consists of the first two books of The Master of Hestviken. (The publication date is November 10). You can read the Goodreads description here.
The Memory of Babel, The Mirror Visitor, Book 3, by Christelle Dabos (Europa). I am truly loving these novels. I reviewed the first in the series, A Winter’s Promise, and said, “This French fantasy novel, just published by Europa Editions, is one of the most absorbing books of the year. The heroine is a museum curator who reads the history of objects by touching them. She can also travel through mirrors. (You can read the rest of the review here.) The publication date is Sept. 8. And here is the Goodreads description.
Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth, The Abolition, The Unconquerable World (Library of America). Here is the Library of America description: From the Vietnam era to the war on terror, Jonathan Schell (1943–2014) produced a body of work as brave, humane, and consequential as any in the history of American journalism. His legacy rests especially on three books about the threat of nuclear weapons—“the gravest danger of our age”—and the changing nature of modern warfare. On the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Library of America brings together these essential works in one volume for the first time. It was published in April.
Woe from Wit, by Alexander Griboedov (Columbia University). Here is the Columbia University description: Woe from Wit is one of the masterpieces of Russian drama. A verse comedy set in Moscow high society after the Napoleonic wars, it offers sharply drawn characters and clever repartee, mixing meticulously crafted banter and biting social critique. Its protagonist, Alexander Chatsky, is an idealistic ironist, a complex Romantic figure who would be echoed in Russian literature from Pushkin onward. Chatsky returns from three years abroad hoping to rekindle a romance with his childhood sweetheart, Sophie. In the meantime, she has fallen in love with Molchalin, her reactionary father Famusov’s scheming secretary. Chatsky speaks out against the hypocrisy of aristocratic society—and as scandal erupts, he is met with accusations of madness. It was published in the spring.
Please let me know your favorite small presses. What’s on your small-press TBR?