Wednesday, December 11, 2013

AN OFFER YOU CAN'T REFUSE (I hope)

Back in 1978, when Judy and I started publishing, we had two imprints: The Permanent Press (for original titles) and Second Chance Press (for books we reprinted after they had been out of print for over 20 years). Our biggest successes way back then were for Second Chance Press releases, for these were written by some very artful writers, starting with Richard Lortz, Mitchell Goodman, Haywood  Hale Broun, Dola DeJong, Charles O’Neal, and Julian Schuman, who came to us after Thomas Lask, in his “End Papers” column in the New York Times Book Review, repeated a letter we sent out to the Authors Guild, asking Guild members to consider sending us titles written two or more decades ago, which guaranteed that most readers were unaware of these still timely and exceptional books… which we still have in print.  

The other day it occurred to me, “Why not do that with a recent novel that many thought was as good as it gets, yet failed to get any significant readership?” The book that immediately came to mind was David Schmahmann’s The Double Life of Alfred Buber, which we published in 2011, alongside Leonard Rosen’s All Cry Chaos. To me, Buber was “The best novel Vladimir Nabokov NEVER wrote.” Many other critics had similar reactions, as just a few of the following excerpts attest:

 "Buber reads like a lost Nabokov novel; the prose is meticulously wrought, the plot deeply complex and psychologically layered. Where some novels radiate outward, this one spirals in on itself, turn by fascinating turn, exploring the inner life of a man distanced from both himself and reality by his own lies and a soul full of secret, shameful desires."  —Small Press Reviews


"An unusual morality play whose artful style veils the depravity of its protagonist."  —Kirkus
“Schmahmann has created a character with the vividness of J. Alfred Prufrock or Humbert Humbert. Buber’s obsessions and the carefully-guarded secret life make a compelling novel.”    —Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

“Captures the desperation and love between unequals.”  —Publishers Weekly

Yet the publishing business is always full of surprises. Len Rosen’s All Cry Chaos went on to have over ten thousand book and Kindle sales in America and 12 foreign subright sales, while The Double Life of Alfred Buber has sold only 448  hard cover copies to date, and has had no translations at all, though Judy and I thought Buber had equal literary value. So here comes the offering:

If we’re not selling this book, why not give it away and allow you to pass it on to others you know. It would surely make a great holiday gift to any thoughtful reader. All you need do is send an Email asking for Buber, and we’ll send you a Pdf file that you can put on your Kindle or any other electronic device.

David deserves more readers and his novel more admirers.

Marty

2 comments:

  1. I can think of several friends who would enjoy reading it, as I know I did. It's interesting to see how two good books can fare so differently though--brings home the fact that good writing, good publishing and good advertizing might still require some element of good luck to generate success.

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  2. December 12, 2013

    Hi Marty:

    Thanks for your generous offer – the free PDF of The Double Life of Alfred Buber.
    Sad to hear, from my perspective as a reader of contemporary fiction and a novelist, that such a well-reviewed book failed to attract much readership. Too many novels published every year is part of the problem, along with the disappearance, or shrinking of newspaper and magazine book review sections, and the brutal competition for consumer attention and the consumer dollar. Add to the above, a decline in the number of people who regularly read and buy books, and a degradation of public taste, which increasingly favors the brief and simple in what they do read. In the face of this calamity for publishers, writers and readers, Marty Shepard lights a candle instead of just cursing the darkness. So, thanks to Marty, and thanks also to Judy and the Permanent Press for keeping literature alive. Best wishes, Marc Davis

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