Saturday, 31 August 2013

An insightful reading but definitely

I don't speak German, so this is a review for any German speakers. I did put it in Google translate, which gave a very good translation, with the amusing last words being - "An insightful reading but definitely". One to include on the back of any reprint perhaps. The review appeared in the newsletter of the Jazz Institute Darmstadt.

Peter Vacher schreibt seit den 1970er Jahren für britische Jazzmagazine wie Jazz Journal und andere. In "Mixed Messages" hat er einundzwanzig Interviews mit amerikanischen Jazzmusikern zusammengefasst, die teils bekannter, weitgehend aber auch gar nicht so bekannt sind, die meisten von ihnen Musiker der älteren Generation, fast alle tätig im Genre des traditionellen oder des swingenden Mainstream-Jazz.

Der Posaunist Louis Nelson erzählt über das New Orleans der 1930er und 1940er Jahre; der Bassist Norman Keenan über die Bands von Tiny Bradshaw und Lucky Millinder. Der Trompeter Gerald Wilson spricht über Einflüsse, Arrangementkonzepte und die Szene in Los Angeles, der Trompeter Fip Ricard über Territory Bands und Count Basie.

Ruby Braff äußert sich über Boston, den Jazz im Allgemeinen und Wynton Marsalis; Buster Cooper über seine Zeit mit Lionel Hampton und Duke Ellington. Ellington spielt auch im Interview mit dem Trompeter Bill Berry eine große Rolle, Hampton und Basie wiederum in den Erzählungen des Posaunisten Benny Powell.

Der Saxophonist Plas Johnson erzählt über den "Chitlin' Circuit", den er mit Johnny Otis und anderen Bands tourte, der Pianist Ace Carter über die Jazzszene in Cleveland, Ohio. Der Saxophonist Herman Riley berichtet über sein Leben und seine Arbeit in New Orleans und Los Angeles, der Saxophonist Lanny Morgan über seine Arbeit mit Maynard Ferguson.

Der Pianist Ellis Marsalis spricht über die moderne Jazzszene in New Orleans; der Saxophonist Houston Person über Orgel-Saxophon-Combos und seine Zusammenarbeit mit Etta Jones. Der Posaunist Tom Artin erzählt von seinen Erfahrungen auf der traditionellen Jazzszene der USA, der Trompeter von der Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band und einem Engagement mit Bobby Short.

Der Bassist Rufus Reid nennt J.J. Johnson als role model, der Saxophonist John Stubblefield reflektiert über eine Karriere zwischen Don Byas, Charles Mingus und AACM. Judy Carmichael erzählt, wie sie dazu kam, Stride-Pianistin zu werden, Tardo Hammer über den Einfluss Lennie Tristanos. Der Trompeter Byron Stripling schließlich sagt, was er von Clark Terry lernte, wie es war mit Count Basie zu spielen, und warum die Jazzpädagogik ein wichtiges Instrument sei, das Wissen der großen Jazzmusiker weiterzureichen.

"Mixed Messages" ist eine abwechslungsreiche Sammlung von Erinnerungen an jazzmusikalische Aktivitäten, persönliche Erlebnisse und musikalische Erfahrungen. So "mixed", wie der Buchtitel impliziert, sind die Botschaften der darin portraitierten Musiker allerdings gar nicht, dafür ist das stilistische Spektrum denn doch zu stark auf Musiker des swingenden Jazz beschränkt. Eine erkenntnisreiche Lektüre aber auf jeden Fall.

Wolfram Knauer (August 2013)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Polyamory, polyfidelity and non-monogamy: new approaches to multiple relationships... certainly the most cumbersome sub-title of any Five Leaves book, and the cover of Breaking the Barriers to Desire: new approaches to multiple relationships would certainly be in our top three of worst covers (so bad I'm not putting it on here). In our defence, it was published in 1995 when we were still learning about covers. And typing 1995 makes me realise that yes, Five Leaves is a year older than we normally advertise. Have to bring forward our twentieth birthday bash.
Anyway... every two or three years I wince, when polyamory and all that is back in the press again. There's been a telly programme, which I did not watch, and today Laura Penny (who else?) is in the Guardian advocating non-monogamy.
Just to be clear, polyamory is not something that the Five Leaves batallions get up to in the office when proof-reading gets all too much. We'd never publish such a book now, but several of our early books - commissioned in our pre-flight year as Mushroom Bookshop Publications - were about sexual politics. Not that we've got anything against sexual politics, or polyamory for that matter, but our areas of publication quickly changed once the link with the Bookshop had gone. The book itself, edited by Kevin Lano and Claire Parry, sold reasonably, with the still-extant American magazine Loving More buying the last 150 copies. And that was that. Except it wasn't.
Twice, late in the life of the book, the Guardian and the Sunday Mirror featured the book through no effort our our part. In both cases we got loads of phone calls (in those pre-email days), from journalists wanting copies for further features and reviews. The second time the book was featured thirteen journalists rang, including one desperate journo at The Sun who called several times. Like we would talk to The Sun. And the number of calls from the public or people wanting to order the book? In each case, next to none. The second time it was three calls and bookshops worldwide were scarcely troubled by as many people ordering the book. By then we had no copies to give out to journalists anyway.
All we could conclude from this was that journalists were (and perhaps are) REALLY interested in non-monogamy and that the public was (and perhaps is) not, other than maybe those involved in responsible polyamory who had already bought the book. We still get occasional calls, but the book is long gone and we have lost touch with the editors and contributors.

Advance notice of Five Leaves key events in 2014

Saturday March 15: 11.00-5.00
States of Independence V
A day of talks, book launches, panels and discussion on books, industry matters and writing
Supporting independent presses and independent thinking.
Full programme to be announced
Organised jointly by De Montfort University Creative Writing Team and Five Leaves Publications
Supported by Creative Leicestershire
De Montfort University, Leicester
Saturday May 10: 10.00-5.00
London Radical Bookfair
An all day bookfair involving 100 publishers and bookshops from across the radical sector, and radical books from the commercial sector
Panel discussions on the shortlisted books for the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing and Little Rebels Award for children's books together with the announcement of award winners
Supporting programme of talks (and walks) leading up to the bookfair and throughout the day
Organised by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers, Five Leaves Publications and Bishopsgate Institute
Advance programme events ticketed, talks on the day and the bookfair free
Bishopsgate Institute,

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Reasons not to date a small press publisher

Note: this list refers to the traditional male small press publisher. In the case of the new generation of female small press publishers, change He to She and delete preliminary point.

He will have a beard
  1. He will be broke
  2. He will not want to go on holiday
  3. When he goes on holiday he will visit every bookshop within fifty miles
  4. He will already have a partner, better off than himself
  5. He will talk non-stop about how terrible Waterstones is
  6. Apart from when complaining about Amazon
  7. Or moaning about the Arts Council
  8. He will have friends who are poets
  9. He might be a poet
  10. At launch parties everyone will ignore you unless you are a writer
  11. He will start work at 6.30am
  12. His idea of fun is a book launch 200 miles away
  13. His idea of nice wine is Kwiksave BOGOFF, left over from a book launch
  14. He will not own a car, and can't drive
  15. He will ask for lifts in your car, without knowing he is doing it
  16. His office will be very untidy, spilling over with unsaleable books
  17. It will not be clean
  18. On principle he will only publish books that lose money
  19. He believes in the creative economy while contributing nothing to it
  20. He resents successful small presses
  21. He will not have a pension plan
  22. Other than you are his pension plan
  23. He will never retire
  24. His share of the phone bill will be 80%, but he will pay only 50%
  25. He will have authors staying who have travelled 250 miles to read for twenty minutes to an audience of seventeen
  26. You will have seen the same seventeen people at every reading for thirty years
  27. 50% of his income will go on buying books
  28. He will talk to you at length about the book he is editing
  29. He will ignore your advice when you suggest changes or wonder who would buy such a book
    30. He knows the names of every book reviewer in the UK. None of them know his name
    31. He anxiously scans the review pages of the Guardian every Saturday even though his last book review in any broadsheet was in 1992
    32. He will give you a copy of his own published novel, which did not get the attention it deserved
    33. He mutters

Robots without insight

Regular readers will know I'm not keen on Amazon, for all the usual reasons. A minor reason to dislike them is - from a publisher's point of view - the firm's unwillingness to allow you to communicate directly with a human being. There is no phone number. There is no account executive. No staff list. All you can do is send an email on a form, choosing between a range of subject headings which often do not describe your problem. If you are lucky, someone will deal with the matter promptly. If you are unlucky, you end up in robot hell where - it appears - your email is scanned for a key word or two and you receive a standard email which does not answer your question. Email again, you get the same response.
For half a year Amazon kept asking us for permission to return some damaged books, saying that if we did not reply they would simply send the books. We did not reply, so next month they sent an email asking for permission to return some damaged books, saying that if we did not reply they would simply send the books. We did not reply, so... you get the message. For another half year we got emails threatening to suspend our account if we did not fill in a CARP form, though we could never find out what this CARP form was. Eventually a human did reply to tell us to just ignore those emails because CARP (easy to rearrange those letters, don't you think?) refers to firms delivering container loads at their depots.
Recently, in response to a query on our behalf about the Amazon Daily Deal a robotic reply came, telling us nothing we wanted to know but answering a different question robotically. A follow-up email got the reply "We'll be sure to consider your interest for this feature as we plan further improvements. I"m sorry we haven't been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. We will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters."

Friday, 2 August 2013

Two cheers for Utopia

One day last week, reviews of the Five Leaves Utopia issue of our annual journal turned up in Anarchist Studies and the Communist Party's Communist Review. I imagine it would be hard to find two journals further apart but still on the left. Communist Review (CR) is still debating what went wrong in the former Soviet Union (though it has a good poetry section) while Anarchist Studies' (AS lead article is "Toward a Peak Everything Postanarchism and Technology Evaluation Schema for Communities in Crisis". Yes, it can be that kind of academic journal. Both took Utopia seriously, devoting a lot of space to it.
AS would perhaps be expected to review favourably as many of the writers - as the CR was quick to pick up - were from a libertarian background and the reviewer Diogo Duarte finds that many of the shorter pieces "written like chronicles, often starting from personal experience or a biographical episode of the author that could be as different as a coastal walk... a journey to Patagonia" which "offer us uncommon approaches to the topic or reflections on how utopia can be found in banal actions or habits" are the most entertaining reads but at the same time "utopia is used in such a broad way that it becomes impossible to discern what the criterion was behind the inclusion of the text." As editor of the work, I am not sure what my criterion was either, so the point was fairly made. I suppose that I wanted exactly that - well written pieces including those AS described as having "historical depth" as well as the more personal approach.
Over at CR Steve Johnson finds the book very readable and you can tell in his review that he found the book a pleasurable read, yet noticed that what was not on offer was any idea or strategy on how to reach utopia. I'm still looking for those. Steve also cleverly picks up that much of the utopian language of the libertarian left has been picked up by the right "with its talk of free schools and alternative education" suggesting that "anti-statism without a wider political strategy can have deeply reactionary consequences. Big Society anyone?
As editor, the pieces that bookended Utopia were, for me, the most important. The first was by Mike Marqusee (a Marxist), a piece which AS described as making "a short but strong claim on the importance of utopian thought and the consequences of its absence". The last was the picture, reprinted here from the (Marxist) Country Standard where, prefiguring the work of the anarchist illustrator Cliff Harper's famous sequence of illustrations in Undercurrents and elsewhere (which should have been included in the journal!), the unknown illustrator imagines how we will live in a better society. Good to see the reading room there.
Does this mean that there is more in common between anarchist academics and members of the Communist Party than we thought? Maybe. Just don't mention Kronstadt.