A book by Andrzej Bursa (1932-1957) received in the post a day or two ago prompts me to mention here that it has been great working with the brilliant Charles Boyle again over the past couple of months. Author and poet, publisher of CB editions and founder of the Free Verse: Poetry Book Fair, Charles is also a brilliant editor and typesetter. It is this, Charles’s typesetting work on a forthcoming novel of mine, that has brought us back into a familiar kind of collaboration in recent weeks.
We first worked together a decade ago, when my novel Foxy-T was in production at Faber and Faber. Because of editorial challenges presented, perhaps, by the language used in Foxy-T, it had been felt — I was told — that it might take someone with the precise eyes of both a poet and a poetry editor to do the manuscript justice. That was when Charles’s name was mentioned, since at that time as well as being ‘a Faber poet’ he also worked for them in-house. Now, a decade later, it would be unusual to find such aspects of the publication workflow as the copy-edit being staffed in-house; more likely these days they’d be outsourced. But that was then, and I knew Charles socially already. What is more, he had responded enthusiastically to my previous novel Charlieunclenorfolktango, so it was to my considerable delight that Charles took on the job. The rightness of the decision was borne out as soon as the first batch of particularly perceptive editorial notes arrived a week or two later.
Back then ‘delivery’ of a novel might have been on floppy disk but most of the publication workflow was still done on paper, with photocopies of marked-up manuscripts sent by post. Now of course it’s by email, has been for yonks, but still, among the numerous collaborations that publishing entails, whether notes come by email or by post you know when you’re working with someone good. More about the current project in due course, of course (the novel is to be published on 24 April), but right now I wanted to give a plug to Charles’s brilliant CB editions, and in particular to what I think is a great new way of getting their books into people’s hands: The CBe Circulating Library.
CB editions has been called ‘brilliantly idiosyncratic,’ in fact it has a consistently interesting, international list of poetry, short novels, prose and literature in translation. All titles feature good, simple design that begins with the covers and their bold type on brown-board and continues past the golden-yellow fly leaves to clear typographic layouts that always feel equal both to the task of making the books’s contents as accessible and readable as possible and of responding to the particular needs of each text. Just as publishing should be, but so often isn’t.
A week or two ago Charles announced a new scheme, the CBe Circulating Library: He would send a book out to anyone that wanted to participate, either a title of their choosing or one randomly selected from the list. It seems like a great idea to me, getting books into people’s hands and encouraging the sharing of them, so I am taking part. This is why the copy of Bursa’s Killing Auntie & other work (translated by Wieseik Powaga) landed on my doormat the other day. I’m not sure who I will pass the book on to yet… The informal network thus created, as the book is passed on, can be tracked as it grows by means of a ‘library card’ style form on the front fly leaf upon which — while it lasts perhaps — the reader can write the name of the person they are passing the title on to. Here’s what it says in the CBe newsletter (which you can sign up to here):
The deal is this: you read, and then send or pass on to a friend; and then that friend reads and sends or passes on, and so on.
The CBe Circulating Library label gently invites participants to keep in touch, if they feel like it, to tell where a book has got to, but at this stage the Library is not a digital social network, the M.O. is reassuringly analogue, personal and one-to-one. Unlike e.g. Book Crossing this is also a commercial proposition, and one that draws the participant/recipient’s attention to the CB editions catalogue and to the fact that any book thus received is common property: ‘To order a copy of this book for yourself…’ the label says, ‘see www.cbeditions.com.’
I’m looking forward to reading more of Killing Auntie. The opening story, ‘Fairy Tale,’ is a belter. If you are already a friend of mine and want to be the person I pass this library copy on to, then let me know! If you want to be next on the list and we’re not already in contact then come and find me on Twitter or something. Either way, CB editions is great and should be supported in the traditional way too, so in the meantime why not have a look at the CBe catalogue 2013 (link downloads as PDF) and buy a book. I’d recommend Days and Nights in W12 by Jack Robinson.
Into CB? Any excuse…
Also, news just in…
Poetry on Broadway: Stephen Knight and Charles Boyle
Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 7.00pm
The Broadway Bookshop
6 Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ
Phone: 020 7241 1626