11.17.2004

I am a registered reviewer all sorts of places -- have just started getting review copies of art books, which is cool --

some publishers simply send their lists. This is particularly the case with VANITY PUBLISHERS. American Book Publishing is a VANITY publisher which guarantees they'll send your book to "25 qualified reviewers" -- well, I'm one of them.

coming from alt-everything, including alt-rock zine, alt-publishing as I do, DIY is cool, but, you know, I also have an MFA from an ivy league school -- there is starting your own publishing company, getting your stuff out by any means mecessary, and being a sap who is paying somebody to publish your book because you can't be bothered to either work with or subvert the system

there's another problem, which is that even traditional publishers or new pod publishers who are not taking money to publish your book are often not marketing your book, or are marketing your book like a vanity title -- two friends have published chapbooks recently at a press that requires you sell (note: or buy) 25 copies before they will promise to print. Note: I DO NOT PURCHASE INDIVIDUAL CHAPBOOKS. Occasionally, I will purchase an entire chapbook series from a publisher.

I'm going to review some of these books, because I feel guilty about getting them (although I feel good about getting cool art books free, and this is the cost of that).

Caroline Covell
The Rise and Fall of Empires
American Book Publishing
History
paper, 19.95
isbn 1-58982-178-5

Nice cover art of Sukarno, maps, and bamboo. Bad blurbs. Note: no one cares if your town mayor likes your book! Not every Ph. D. makes a good blurber! Are these people known in the field? No, we have a dentist with a PhD and some guy who seems to have been learning about the topic for the first time from the blurb. The cover copy is someone who is very serious trying to be "zingy" --

"Beware, those who would wield absolute power..." so the potential audience is people who would like to become benevolent dictators? OK, so this is going to be a sort of case study from Poly Sci 201: Benevolent Dictators or "Benevolent" Dictators.

Now, we read the cover letter and looked at the cover and flipped through, my husband and I, and we felt very sorry for Ms. Covell. We think she might be smart and hardworking and not have a clue.

We also believe we are truly the audience for this book, misconceived as that is, along with the students in "Dicks." Because we know nothing about Indonesia, Dutch colonialism, or these particular fez-wearing guys on the cover of the book. Who are Sukarno and Suharto.

The ironies of the dictator who leaves the ad hoc assemblage of a country intact versus the liberalizing dictator who leaves the country in internicene warfare should not be lost on the United States, even as we are disunited by someone who seized power and uses war to enforce that power, and went to war to remove such another unifying dictator. Is our disunity a sign of our liberalism? Or is the quietude of the DNC a sign of Rove's misrule?

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