There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired….
—William Wordsworth, The Prelude
Dear Friend of Slant Books:
Last month Slant announced that we are now an independent, not-for-profit press. As the year draws to a close and the giving season is upon us, it’s worth asking: why offer financial support to an indie literary press that avoids fads, ideologies, and tribalisms of all kinds in favor of exquisitely crafted language that wrestles with perennial themes?
The short answer? Time. Everyone knows “time is money” but how often do we perceive the true meaning of that phrase? Our culture and our technology encourage us to waste time and let the deeper virtues of attention and reflection atrophy. Increasingly, the kind of time required to produce enduring literature is considered unprofitable—and so the market pushes us toward the literary equivalent of fast food—books that confirm our prejudices rather than rock our world. Great books can provide what Wordsworth called “spots of time” which nourish and repair our hearts and minds.
Slant thus inhabits an invaluable space: one where the generosity of its readers—both in terms of their time and attention, as well as their pocketbooks—makes possible the kind of deep engagement that changes us for the better, promoting humility and wisdom rather than smugness and self-congratulation.
Here’s one stellar example of that. Having published an outstanding short story by Rubén Degollado many years ago, I decided to approach him to see if he had a book he was working on. He did—and we then went through a bracing process of developmental editing that yielded the award-winning novel, Throw. Here’s what Ruben can now report:
Small presses like Slant are the lifeblood of emerging writers. When Greg Wolfe took a chance on my first novel, I had no idea it would launch my career. Throw became an award-winning novel and got onto several “best of” lists. Since it was published, I acquired an agent, have been invited to submit to anthologies, been asked to be a speaker for Yale Writer’s Workshop, and my collection of short stories, The Family Izquierdo, will be published by W.W. Norton, one of America’s most prestigious publishers. None of this would have happened without Slant taking a risk on a mid-life debut author who wrote a slim novel about gang youth experiencing first love and first loss.
To be sure, it’s bittersweet for Slant that Rubén has gone on to be published by W.W. Norton, but we are enormously proud that we’ve served as an incubator for new talent. The truth is that it often requires a “non-profitable” investment of time and resources to help a writer arrive at a more successful career. Slant can act as that sort of bridge, but only if others believe in our mission strongly enough to support it.
Recently I was delighted to reconnect with an old friend and share with him news about what Slant was publishing. This is what he said in response:
Congratulations on your launch as an indie press. What you have conceived and achieved strikes a deep chord within. Your vision for Slant—promoting first-rate literary craft and enduring humanistic values—resonates with the best of my family’s publishing tradition. You should get an award for classic book design, from cover art to typeface, layout, the works. These volumes are treasures to behold and hold.
These words were written by Charles Scribner III—whose family firm published Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, Thomas Wolfe, and so many other classics of American literature. Receiving these words from Charlie felt a bit like an “apostolic succession”!
The response to news of Slant’s independence—and to the kind of books we are bringing into the world—has been warm and enthusiastic. That is why eminent authors like the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (Shakeshafte and Other Plays), Wheaton College Provost Karen An-hwei Lee (Rose Is a Verb), Oprah Book Club author Bret Lott (Cherries on the Golan, Olives in Jerusalem, forthcoming), Amit Majmudar (Twin A: A Memoir, forthcoming), and others have entrusted their work to Slant. It’s also why Slant titles like A.G. Mojtabai’s novel, Thirst, are showing up on end of the year booklists like that by book critic John Wilson.
Slant may be relatively small and young, but we’re punching well above our weight class. That’s why we’ve received a grant from the Polish Book Institute to publish a post-war classic, Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) by Jaroslaw Marek Rymkiewicz, winner of the Nike Literary Award.
Now we face the first year on our own—we’re building new infrastructure and learning a great deal along the way. But this is a challenging time to be an indie press. We want to continue to discover and develop new talent, maintain our high production values in editing, design, and typography, and nurture the kind of humanistic conversation that is increasingly rare in a culture riven by ideology and propaganda. Help us find our legs. We can’t do that without your support.
As readers and financial supporters, you make all of this happen. You are citizens of the Republic of Letters—you understand that to be a good citizen is to be responsible and involved. We hope that you will continue to demonstrate that by sharing your own precious resources to further Slant’s mission—to make more stories like Rubén Degollado’s possible. Would you make a gift today—from $5 to $5,000—to help us succeed as a non-profit press? We’re so grateful for your support and we encourage you to stay in touch via social media, email, and, God willing, in person at book events in the years to come.
Publisher & Editor, Slant Books