Artists and artisans of every possible stripe, editors, publishers, gallerists, curators, producers of theatricals: all are (too often unsung) entrepreneurs, who seed and nurture the arts, creating the ecosystem that parallels, critiques and reinforces the mainstream economy. The Lobster & Canary returns to one of our favorite themes: the Founder's Tale (click here for our example-filled March 4th, 2012 post, which inspired a round table we led at Arisia in January this year).
I am especially struck by the proliferation of small literary presses in the U.S.A. over the past two decades, at a time when major media conglomerates have acquired and consolidated so many of the older imprints (not in itself a bad thing, but an organizational trend that has logically favored least-common-denominator blockbusters as opposed to bolder, experimental, and decidedly off-beat productions). Today's small-press founders are the latest descendants of Plantin and Manutius-- long live the Republic of Letters!
Jeffrey Levine, founder of Tupelo Press, tells the story of how he got started, in terms that I am sure are essentially identical to those of his fellow small-press creators:
"So, in 1999 I created this 'job' out of, well, nothing. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn't really know very much about doing it. Strictly speaking, that's not really true. It would be more true to say that I didn't really know anything about it, except, I felt I had one important talent: that I could trust my judgment about what great writing looked- and sounded- like. (Every entrepreneur needs a healthy dollop of ego.) So, I rented a little office on the second floor of the U.S. Post Office in Walpole, NH, and I found a desk and a chair, a telephone (remember those), a computer and a printer and set about learning my craft." [For the entire interview, click here].