I got to go to Wordstock: Portland’s Festival of the Book, 2015, this last week-end and had a blast. It was held at the Portland Art Museum, and even though it was raining buckets, thousands of people attended.
I only attended one talk, though there were lots of authors there. It was with illustrator Brian Floca who discussed how he illustrated Avi’s new book Old Wolf. He was warm and wry and showed slides of how the book was written and illustrated.
As much as I would have liked to hear more of the authors, my time was limited and I really wanted to shop for books. It was so encouraging to see so many small and independent presses showing their books. The festival room was packed, too. We inched forward through crowds to find delights at each table. I thought I was aware of most of the publishers in the Northwest, but I wasn’t. I hope to be sharing books from those newly discovered publishers over the next few months.
I’d been wanting Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself, illustrated by Allen Crawford, since last year when Portland-based publisher Tin House released it. An exuberant presentation of Walt Whitman’s exuberant poem, it’s a gorgeous book. Crawford has a unique and playful style. His website shows not only the illustrations of this book, but some of his other art and endeavors.
The other two book I bought were actually McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, a magazine/book hybrid that defies description. On their website, they say:
McSweeney’s began in 1998 as a literary journal that published only works rejected by other magazines. That rule was soon abandoned, and since then McSweeney’s has attracted work from some of the finest writers in the country, including Denis Johnson, Jonathan Franzen, William T. Vollmann, Rick Moody, Joyce Carol Oates, Heidi Julavits, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Ben Marcus, Susan Straight, Roddy Doyle, T.C. Boyle, Steven Millhauser, Gabe Hudson, Robert Coover, Ann Beattie, and many others. At the same time, the journal continues to be a major home for new and unpublished writers; we’re committed to publishing exciting fiction regardless of pedigree.
Each issue of the quarterly is completely redesigned. There have been hardcovers and paperbacks, an issue with two spines, an issue with a magnetic binding, an issue that looked like a bundle of junk mail, and an issue that looked like a sweaty human head. McSweeney’s has won multiple literary awards, including two National Magazine Awards for fiction, and has had numerous stories appear in The Best American Magazine Writing, the O. Henry Awards anthologies, and The Best American Short Stories. Design awards given to the quarterly include the AIGA 50 Books Award, the AIGA 365 Illustration Award, and the Print Design Regional Award.
I was able to get one of their classic McSweeney’s Issue No. 16 (2005) (I got the pictures from their website)
and a more recent Issue 47 (2014):
McSweeney’s is an innovative publisher and I’m so glad they’ve stayed in business. They recently became a nonprofit, so hopefully they’ll be around for many more decades. In addition to the Quarterly, they’re publishing fiction, art, comics, nonfiction and children’s books
So in my purchases, I went for quality over quantity. I also made a very long list of books to acquire in the future. So stay tuned. I’ll be sharing my best finds.
You can never have too many stories.