Semina works

June 13, 2008

Last night I attended the launch of Semina, a new series of experimental novels from Book Works, at Housmans. The novels are the result of an open call for submissions, and are being selected by series Commissioning Editor Stewart Home.

The first two titles in the series, Bridget Penney’s Index, and Maki Kim’s One Break, A Thousand Blows!, are available now. Further titles in the series include Bubble Entendre (2009) by Mark Waugh and Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie (2010) by Stewart himself, with another five titles still to be announced.

Both the event and the setting provide some hope for experimental and uncommercial literature. Bookworks is a publicly funded arts organisation, supported by the Arts Council and others, which gives it the freedom to publish work that would not see the light of day at a commercial publisher (although in the current climate even this survival may be endangered). Housmans, meanwhile, occupies the ground floor of a building gifted to Peace News in the 1940s, allowing it to remain true to its political and cultural aims without worrying about the steep rent rises and ecroaching gentrification that have forced out so many others (c.f. Compendium, Charing Cross Road).

I’ve written before about the growing necessity for finding other models for publishing literature, and public funding and private patronage are two possible routes. But they’re not always sustainable, and we shall continue to look, in technology and elsewhere, for other ways.

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