River Boat Books is asking for help through a fundraiser that I (Rick Harsch) believe deserves the attention of all literary people large and small. Recently I gave to KAYA Press because it came to my attention and they are responsible for keeping such luminaries as Sesshu Foster in print, and was too late to give to another one that was a Kickstarter for the publication of a single book written in 1933 I had never heard of that several dedicated readers raised the money to get published.
Rather than tiring of these pesky monetary cries for help (though I would rather the lit market were not so pyramidal and shot through with Amazonovirus), I am heartened that literary people on the receiving end, the reading and buying end, are joining writers in disseminating books on this necessary smaller level. I was communicating with a virtually unknown novelist the other day who told me that he and his wife contacted 200 literary agencies and got two form replies. Writers are not just writing, people you haven’t heard of are submitting their books to 100 publishers (George Salis, who’s excellent first novel Sea Above, Sun Below is coming out from River Boat Books this May was recognized on submission 101–and advance reviewers are confirming the decision of River Boat). So it ain’t just old-timers like myself pushing that one last magnum opus and I will tell you that I have it on good authority that my Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas is a great work of modern American literature and deserves attention–but as we pale and fade, we need to put the last of our decades of energy into every literary effort that supports the little feller.
River Boat is doing this on many fronts. First, the press has taken a principled stand against the page-eating Amazon virus. The press will not work with Amazon. Amazon earns less than 7% of its profits from book sales, yet virtually controls what a vast majority of readers find available. River Boat Books this year is introducing, aside from Salis, four more excellent novelists, all to be published for the first time, and all the advance reviews of all the books have been of the highest order.
Last year, River Boat Books quietly made English literary history, publishing the first English translation of the entirety of Roberto Arlt’s seminal work The Seven Madmen/The Flamethrowers, one book that until last year was only half available in English. This is a book that was of importance to Borges, Cortázar, Piglia, and probably any 20th-century Latin American writer you can name. But the size of River Boat Books, a small press after all, works against it and publicity has been hard to come by. Arlt belongs in thousands of libraries that don’t know it exists. Yet on the ground level, maybe the underground level, word about River Boat Books is beginning to leak out–apt metaphor, for such word is also a flotation device.
Readers, writers who read, and reviewers are beginning to notice River Boat Books. For instance, check out Chris Via, who produces review segments on YouTube that go by the name Leaf by Leaf. You’ll find several mentions of River Boat Books right in there with his excellent reviews of Robert Musil, Haruki Murakami, Rikki Ducornet, and others. I urge you to browse the River Boat site, look into the fascinating origin story of the epic masterpiece The Mad Patagonian. See what else is coming. What’s all the late fuss about Skulls of Istria? Where did they find George Salis and Erik Martiny, much less the perverse and indomitable David Vardeman? Literature will thrive, and we’ve seen from numerous examples in the past 75 years that it will do so because of small presses and the efforts of people with no power in the publishing industry. Thank you.
In 2016, after twenty years developing a very small press, after publishing one book that was a 1997 Minnesota Book Award Finalist and another that was named to the unofficial long list for the 2010 National Book Award, Peter Damian Bellis decided he needed to expand River Boat Books if he wanted to truly leave a mark on American publishing. Publishing a few great books was simply not enough.”
Read more about the press and the fundraiser here:
Please share this widely for the sake of literature. Small presses keep literature alive.