Chad W. Post is the Associate Director for Dalkey Archive Press. He began working for Dalkey Archive in 2000, and in 2005 he helped launch the Reading the World initiative, a program to display works in translation in bookstores across the country. While Chad remains engaged in editorial aspects of the Press, his new position will involve fundraising to gain support for the Press's translations.
Mark Thwaite: Dalkey have a wonderful list: how on earth do you go about choosing your titles!?
Chad Post: We actually have a pretty unique process for finding and deciding on which titles to publish. Since we re-committed to publishing original translations, a number of countries (such as Finland, Russia, Estonia, Austria, and Germany) have funded editorial trips to their country to meet with publishers, critics, and academics in order to get a good feel for the local literary scene and figure out which books we should be looking into.
Thanks to our being at Illinois State University, we have a number of high-level international graduate students who help read the books we're uncovering, writer reader's reports, and do sample translations--all of which we need in order to determine whether or not we should publish a particular book. Finally, every week we have an editorial meeting to discuss the books under consideration and decide which ones we'd like to publish. The final decision is up to our publisher and founder, John O'Brien, but it's really based on an editor's passion about a particular book. We only publish titles that editors are absolutely passionate about, books they want all their friends to read, etc.
CP: My favorite Dalkey book is probably Impossible Object by Nicholas Mosley. Or Thank You For Not Reading by Dubravka Ugresic. Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Gilbert Sorrentino is up there as well. It's too hard to pick just one …
In terms of our readers, based on lifetime sales, their favorites are anything by Flann O'Brien, Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson, and Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley. Recently, the best-selling books for us have been The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien (thanks to the TV-show Lost) and Eros The Bittersweet by Anne Carson.
MT: How did Reading the World go? Are there more ventures like that planned?
CP: Reading the World was very successful in it's inaugural year, and we plan on making this a yearly event. In fact, for May 2006, ten publishers are going to participate (Archipelago, Dalkey Archive, FSG, New Directions, Knopf, Other Press, Picador, Ecco, Harcourt Brace, and New York Review Books) and we're hoping to include over 200 independent bookstores. There will also be a permanent Reading the World website, and a lot more coverage and publicity for the project. I think this year will be an even bigger success than last year, and will help ensure the continuation of this project.
MT: In general, how are you finding publishing all these obscure titles and books-in-translation?
CP: I think this is the most exciting and interesting thing we could be doing. There are wonderful books being written in other languages, and it's a thrill to hear about them, get them translated, and then introduce these authors to other English-speaking readers. And although translations don't sell as well as titles originally written in English, we have been pretty successful at getting coverage for these titles and coming up with innovative ways to get these books out to readers. Overall, it's an amazing challenge and a great deal of fun.
MT: The Center for Book Culture is our official name and encompasses Dalkey Archive Press, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, CONTEXT magazine, and our various educational programs. In terms of our non-profit status, that's the only way that we can sustain the organization. No matter how well we do in promoting and marketing the books we're publishing, there's no way we could survive on sales alone. Literature needs to be sponsored in the same way other arts, like museums, symphony orchestras, and theaters are funded. Thanks to private foundations, like the Lannan Foundation, government organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council, and individuals, we've been able to not only survive for 25+ years, but have expanded and increased our impact along the way. Nevertheless, the only way to ensure that the Press can last forever (and that we can keep our books in print forever, and reach the maximum number of readers) is to establish an endowment. I believe this will come about thanks to the support of a few key individuals, and that with this endowment in place, we will be able to dramatically increase our impact on literary culture and fulfill our mission of protecting literature for future generations.
MT: What is your relationship to literary websites and/or the blogosphere?
CP: Literary websites and blogs are very important to us. Generally, they've been very supportive of the Press, and frequently review books that the mainstream media ignores. That's why I think literary website are crucial to our culture. These websites are filling a void in our contemporary culture and have ecome a key place where readers are getting their information.
And in terms of blogs, I'm actually participating in the Words Without Borders weblogs concerning international literature. If you're not already familiar with it, Words Without Borders is a great website, and it's been a lot of fun writing weekly posts for them.
MT: How do you see literary sites/blogs helping the atmosphere for the receipt of literary titles and books-in-translation? Do you see any evidence of literary sites/blogs helping you to communicate more widely about your titles?
CP: As I mentioned above, I think literary sites are filling in where mainstream media falls short. And this is typically in terms of literary titles, especially those in translation. It's unfortunate, but traditional book coverage is shrinking - at least in the US - and nowadays, a lot of book review outlets focus on non-fiction, rather than literary fiction, which is what we primarily publish. Over the past couple years, as weblogs have become more and more popular, I've noticed that a lot of readers who contact us are finding out about our books from various literary sites/blogs. It's very encouraging, and it'll be interesting to see how the role these sites/blogs are playing evolves over the next few years.
MT: Who is your favourite writer/book? What is the best thing you have read recently? What is your favourite website?
Recently I've been reading a number of our upcoming books, and the one that I'm most excited about is Summer in Termuren by the Flemish author Louis Paul Boon. It's actually a continuation of Chapel Road, which we published a couple years ago. It's almost impossibly to sum this book up - it's about the rise and fall of socialism in Belgium, about Ondine and Oscar, who have a difficult marriage and a rough time during World War I, but it's also about Flanders in 1950, and Louis Paul Boon's friends who are facing some of the same struggles as Ondine and Oscar. It's an emotional book, but is also very funny, filled with interesting ideas, and a genuine work of art.
MT: What should we be watching out for soon from Dalkey?
CP: We're bringing out a number of great books this spring, including an Estonian title - Things in the Night by Mati Unt - which is one of the best original titles we've ever published. The other highlights of the list are Eloy Urroz's The Obstacles, Lydie Salvayre's Company of Ghosts and Living Together, the Boon book I mentioned above, and Mark Binelli's Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, a hilarious work of fiction about a slapstick comedy team that's also the real Sacco and Vanzetti …
MT: Where do you see Dalkey/Center for Book Culture being in, say, the next five years?
CP: Over the next five years, I think we'll continue to publish the best books from around the world, and as we get closer to our goal of establishing an endowment, we will be implementing more innovative marketing programs and having a much larger impact on the literary culture.