12 Winters Blog

Men of Winter to be published, and Hawkes’s The Cannibal

Posted in April 2010 by Ted Morrissey on April 11, 2010

Well, it only took about ten years, but I’ve found a publisher for my novel Men of Winter.  Punkin House Press has offered to bring it out as both an ebook and an actual book.  Punkin House, whose CEO is Amy Ferrell, is adapted(ing) to the realities of publishing in the twenty-first century, I believe.  For years editors/publishers have reacted to my book-length work in more or less the same way:  They like it, they think it should be in print, but just not by them because they won’t make any money off of it.  At a glance it appears that there are just as many publishing houses as there were twenty years ago, perhaps more.  But, in fact, the same thing has happened in the publishing world that has happened in the TV and radio worlds — a few large corporations have acquired or driven out of business the smaller publishing houses, so what may look like a dozen houses is actually just one parent-owned house whose only interest is making a lot of money.  So you have a small group of “name” authors who publish continuously, and thousands of worthy authors who can’t get the time of day from a larger publisher because a “no-name” author isn’t going to sell enough product to make it worthwhile (and, of course, no-name authors remain with no name in the business).  Independent and university presses have tried to fill the void, but budget and staff restraints allow them to publish only a handful of titles each year.  Also, these sorts of presses, especially university presses, tend to evolve very slowly in terms of using technology and adapting to market trends because they’re associated with bureaucratic systems that are driven by inertia rooted in tradition (that is, bureaucrats tend to stick with what they know, even long after it’s proven ineffective).  Meanwhile, I continue to look for a journal to publish “Walkin’ the Dog,” which is really the last publishable story I have; and I work on The Authoress (novel in progress).

On the scholarship front, I’ve been busy tracking down the various portions of William H. Gass’s novel The Tunnel that appeared as excerpts or stand-alone pieces over about thirty years.  So far I’ve mainly been acquiring the pieces and I haven’t had the opportunity to sift through them with care.  What I’m especially interested in is how Gass may have revised them before they appeared in the novel itself.  When I compared “The Old Folks” that appeared in The Kenyon Review with its counterpart, “The Ghost Folks,” in The Tunnel, I found a few — but significant — changes.  I’m still interested in the metaphor of the tunnel itself as being rooted, psychologically, in the phenomenon of the fallout shelter.  I was surprised at the references to tunnels and basements in Nabokov’s early novel Bend Sinister; likewise, I’m only a few pages into John Hawkes’s 1949 novel The Cannibal, which is set in a bombed-out German town, and I’m finding very interesting references to basements, etc.  For example, in the opening chapter the character Balimir is set to work digging a pit in Madame Snow’s cellar, and we are told that as Balimir sits at the top of the steps all of Germany is at his feet.  Similarly, Madame Snow herself “felt the vastness of community that was like burial, spreading over all borders and from family to family” (New Directions 1962 edition p. 17).  That is, the entire town seemed to be underground.

I’m anxious to read on and see where these threads lead my research.

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