Thursday, October 29, 2009

55 Years of Publishing... And Now This.

George Braziller, Inc., is pleased to announce that our spontaneous, unedited thoughts will now appear in packets of 140 characters or less on a new RSS feed site named "Twitter."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Holding the U.S. Accountable

In recent weeks we've read a number of articles criticizing the use of drones in U.S. military operations on the Afghan border. People are asking: How many civilian deaths will result from drone strikes? Are drones accurate enough for use? And now the United Nations wants the U.S. for transparency on the issue:

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) — The United States must demonstrate that it is not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border, a United Nations rights investigator said Tuesday.

The investigator, Philip Alston, also said the American refusal to respond to United Nations concerns that the use of drones might result in illegal executions was an “untenable” position.

Mr. Alston, who is appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, said his concern over drones had grown in the past few months as the American military prominently used them in the rugged area along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He said the United States may be using the drones legally but needed to answer questions he raised in June. “Otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws,” he said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Home of the Wounded

While we usually focus on brighter news in this blog, today we find it urgently necessary to discuss a very serious issue—the lives of veterans returning home from war. Yesterday's New York Times featured an Op-Ed piece by a wounded soldier, discussing the difficulties he faced in his own life, and the solutions he hopes to find. In response, we want to make sure that his words are heard, and that we make room for further dialogue. If you have comments or experiences you'd like to share, please share them here.

We are proud to have published Wounded, a book that explores this subject in depth, and invite readers to join us in raising awareness of a problem too long ignored.

Maxwell Heller,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tooting our horn a bit for John Cage

The day calls for a little trumpet playing, what with Publishers Weekly unable to get enough of our Fall titles—they highlight John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures as one of 2009's great illustrated gift books.

Publisher's Weekly valiantly makes the argument for the joys of untying the ribbon, ripping open the wrapping reveal a beautiful old fashioned paper-and-ink book. Or to quote their intro: "As the industry watches--in most quarters nervously--the market for e-books slowly rise, there is consolation for some that, although you can give an e-book away, you can't give it as a gift. And there's no kind of publishing where the old rules still apply quite as surely as in illustrated books, in which full-color format and coffee-table book dimensions are their raison d'etre, and make them ideal for the gift giving season".

Among the many other lovely titles PW choose for the article is another Cage-related title--a book of Gerhard Richter's Cage Paintings with text by Robert Storr-- highlighting once again the ongoing significance of John Cage within the context of contemporary art.

But mostly this is about how great our book is (yes, it does seem to always come back to that.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reporting for the Next Generation

Speaking with a photographer last week about nimble little houses like Aperture and powerHouse Books—both of them produce unique and insightful photography titles—I realized that most readers expect publishers to break new ground with each publication. Is this possible? Is it even desirable? Yes, publishers are here to present us with new art & literature, distributing it in an durable physical form; but I'm not sure if it's their job to do so before everyone else. We already have magazines, blogs, and (ha ha ha) newspapers to break news for us, so it seems silly to put books to the same task.

I could be wrong.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Size Matters - Five Thoughts on Art Books

Dear Readers,

Paging through new art book catalogs, I conjured a few rules that publishers might like to hear. I don't consider myself an expert, but I've learned a few things by accident in recent years

(1) Try to represent your artist's work.
We know artists not only through their images, but through the sizes, shapes, and textures of the art objects they create—so print your Rothko images big, your Bôsais small, your Francis Bacons on rough paper and your Ingres on glossy. Help readers understand what these art pieces feel and look like... If an Hiroshige print charms viewers because of its minute and dense detail, why would you enlarge it to twice its size? Why?

(2) Make yourself useful.
Anyone can print off an artist's complete work from Wikipedia, but your publishing house should rustle up something new—new information, perspectives, resources, unseen images—that will help people access the artist as never before. Try to include a remarkable bibliography, introduction and other material that will make the book not only a good finished product, but also a good jumping off point for other researchers.

(3) By the way, "complete" collections don't necessarily offer a complete picture.
Sometimes, printing an artist's complete work can actually confuse people. If her most important and productive years occurred late in life, should you really reproduce the dumpster loads of early junk she fumbled through? Would she want that? Will all of it , en masse, help us understand her impact on the arts? Focus. Otherwise we'll think you're trying to compensate for your tiny house by printing a big book. (Unless you're printing The Big Penis Book because you're Taschen and people know for sure that you're big, so you can flaunt it).

(4) Sometimes, the book makes the artist.
You want to sell 50,000 copies of a book, any book, so you run yourself to death looking for the next big artist because you think that a big artist will make your book succeed. Maybe that's the wrong way to go about it. Sometimes, an overlooked artist will reach people like never before when his/her work is presented in a well handled book. Look at Blackstock's Collections for a perfect example of this—a small smart publisher found some small smart work and gained attention for all involved.

(5) Sometime an artist predates another artist, without "predicting" him/her.
Michael Phelps is younger than me, and I bet that I was dog-paddling before his first sink-bath. But I won't say that my early swimming efforts "presaged", "predicted," or even "foreshadowed" his later swimming triumphs—because I would look silly if I suggested such a thing. If your introduction says that Jane McArtist "paved the way" for Cubism, or "utilized elements of Impressionism long before Impressionism" etc., you better be prepared to show a deeper connection, or you'll look like a name dropper. From now on, let us admire the Lascaux cave drawings for their own value... not because they predicted Giacometti.

Best regards,

Maxwell Heller, Editor