As Slant Books wraps up its second year as an indie, nonprofit press, I’m full of gratitude for the authors and readers who have come together under our auspices to form a true “Republic of Letters.” And I’m writing now to ask you to help us grow and flourish in the years to come.
Why support Slant? What sets us apart that warrants your sacrificial giving?
In a word: Slant offers a haven from the trendy, the superficial, the gimmicky, and the self-satisfied in contemporary publishing. There are so many forces at work today that are inimical to the creation of enduring literary art that it can be exhausting to list them all. But they include the conglomeration of publishing houses into the corporate behemoths of the “big five” and their cookie-cutter books, as well as the politicized, moralistic approach of those who substitute high-minded politics for the painstaking literary craft and awareness of the mystery and ambiguity of the human condition that have been the hallmarks of great writing over the centuries.
Perhaps a more concise way of putting it can be found in a recent essay by fiction writer Sterling HolyWhiteMountain, who says: “Our politics cannot rise to the majesty or horror of this world; neither can they meet the simple, day-to-day realities of life in this country—only art is worthy of the task. There is a pain in America we can’t be rid of. We must bear it. And we must go beyond it.”
That’s why Slant has become a refuge, a place of deep communion, where readers know that only art is worthy to render both the everyday and the horror and majesty of life.
But let’s move from elevated rhetoric to a concrete illustration from an unlikely source, an example of how a Slant title can be that blade of grass breaking through the concrete slab of literary predictability. Not long ago, CNN.com ran a long feature essay on a Slant book: Eric Freeze’s French Dive: Living More with Less in the South of France. It’s a memoir about moving with his wife and four kids to the Old Town of Nice.
I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t your typical “I moved to a farmhouse and basked in the Provençal sun.” No, Freeze’s choice was to renovate a tiny apartment in an inner city haunted by drugs and the racism that’s been brought to the surface by immigration. To support his family, he spearfished in the Mediterranean. Freeze and his family went without a car, learning how to live in a diverse community on a more human scale.
And CNN took notice—a healthy reminder that literary publishing doesn’t automatically relegate us to obscurity.
Here are some of the unpredictable titles we’ve brought out this year:
- Sleeping as Fast as I Can, a collection of poems by National Jewish Book Award winner Richard Michelson that explores the boundaries between the personal and the political—starting with his father’s murder and moving on to other forms of racial and antisemitic violence.
- Twin A, a memoir by Amit Majmudar about one of his twin sons, who was born with a congenital heart defect, interspersed with poetry, original fables, and theological reflections.
- A translation of Old Songs, poetry by Olga Sedakova, one of Russia’s most revered literary figures and an outspoken critic of the Russian war on Ukraine.
- Leaping from the Burning Train: A Poet’s Journey of Faith, Jeanne Murray Walker’s memoir of her movement from a fundamentalist home to a more capacious spiritual vision through metaphor and literary form.
Forthcoming titles include:
- Kinderszenen, a memoir of growing up in Warsaw under the Nazi occupation and the subsequent Warsaw Uprising, a Polish literary classic with stark relevance to the conflicts of our own time.
- Gather the Olives, by Bret Lott, a book about his travels in the Holy Land through the lens of the food he experienced in both Palestinian and Israeli settings—as a small sign of hope in a war-torn region.
- Your Names are Written in the Heavens, a biography of Rose Busingye, founder of an NGO in Uganda that serves people from the slums of Kampala affected by HIV/AIDS.
- Poetry collections from Leslie Williams, Scott Cairns, Stephen Haven, and Gary Fincke.
- Fiction from Tony Woodlief, A.G. Mojtabai, and Derek Updegraff.
This is only a fraction of our list, past and future, but provides some sense of how Slant titles seek to bear pain—and go beyond it.
Then there are our podcasts, blog posts, website, 10th anniversary book sale, prizes and awards, and the reviews (such as here and here and here). We may be small but, as all this activity demonstrates, we hit well above our weight class!
All of this is in service of what Garth Greenwell recently said (echoing Sterling HolyWhiteMountain): “the task of art is . . . to know, to observe, to carry out research into the human.” We’ve adopted that phrase as our motto: Slant books do research into the human.
A final note. A couple of weeks ago I received this unsolicited message: “Slant Books is my reply to anyone searching for a meaningful literary experience. And it’s also my first stop for gifts to dear friends and family. I will continue to sing its praises as long as I have a voice.”
We’re grateful for words of encouragement like this, and we hope you will support our ability to continue providing this kind of experience—for you and for many others—for years to come.
Gregory Wolfe, Publisher & Editor
P.S. I hope some of you will consider becoming monthly givers: that kind of consistency provides us with a bedrock of support and spreads out your gift!
P.P.S. Don’t forget that our 10th Anniversary Book Sale, with prices on many titles slashed from 33-50%, is still up and running for a limited time. It’s our way of trying to give a little something back to you!