I’ve decided to return to one of the blog’s most popular features, the Small Press Shoutout. This week we take a look at The Permanent Press, which has been cranking out titles since 1978. Started by husband-and-wife team Martin and Judith Shepard, their catalog includes several award-winning mysteries and the undersung Icelandic novelist Halldor Laxness (a personal favorite of mine).
The name of the press refers to their policy of keeping their entire backlog in print, which I’m guessing is easier now than it was twenty-five years ago.
My belief is that in any culture, at any age, the vast majority of the great books that are handed down, decade after decade and century after century are fiction. Following Homer’s The Iliad and his sequel, The Odyssey, came the great novelists of yesteryear: Dostoyevsky, Chekov, Gogol, Dickens, Chaucer, Jane Austin, Fitzgerald, Boccaccio, Umberto Eco, Dante, Italo Calvino, Rabelais, Hugo, Stendahl, Balzac, Halldor Laxness, Cervantes, Márquez, Kundera, Mark Twain, Faulkner, Hemmingway, Dos Passos, Poe…the list is endless. So if one’s interest lies in discovering novelists who have the talent to write exceptional fiction, why not cultivate and publish them and hope some of them will make a contribution to our culture—which surely needs a lift, given the great decline in fiction in general and the astronomical rise in non-fiction, which includes celebrity bios and countless “How-To” books—how to lose weight, make money, find partners, find serenity, find God, evaluate collectables, write screenplays, prevent aging… this list is endless, as well, and unlikely to survive the test of time.
Bravo! Fiction is important, fiction is necessary, fiction is a testament to what civilization and the human endeavor is all about. Fiction represents – fiction is – us at our finest! Could there be a better attitude for a publisher to have?
Well… let’s look at Judith’s:
Judy’s take is quite different, and her reading interests more eclectic than mine (she’s currently reading the second volume of Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize series about Lyndon Johnson, each over 600 pages in length), But she sees a decided difference between fiction and non-fiction. Reading non-fiction she is a more detached observer, but when reading a good novel, she “enters” the world of the book and become more emotionally involved with the characters.