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June 18, 1977 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-06-18

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Page Six

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Saturday, June 18, 1977

Street Fiction: Quality not quantity

By PAUL SHAPIRO
THE OFFICE IS small and clut-
tered, and a young bearded man
with tatoos on either arm sits feet
up on the room's only desk. Boxes of
books are piled six feet high, cover-
ing over half the floor space, exotic
posters dot the walls. This is the
East Liberty office of Street Fiction
Press, a small Ann Arbor publish-
ing house with large aspirations:
to produce some of the best fiction
available today.
Street Fiction began production
in September of 1973 with an ad-
vance on an advertisement of $100.
Their first release was volume one
of The Periodical Lunch (a poetry,
fiction, and graphics r e v i e w) of
which they have since produced
seven More. In addition, over the
past three and a half years they
have produced three Anon's (a fic-
tion anthology), two Giraffe
graphics books, and eight softcover
originals.
Street Fiction's editorial director
is Brooklyn born Warren Hecht,,
who came to Ann Arbor on a Theo-
dore Goodman fund grant for fic-
tion and has been teaching in the
residential college for eight years.
"It's really been phenomenal," says
H e c h t. "We're .experiencing tre-
mendous growth - between a s t
year and this year 500 per cent. We
sell books nationally," he added.
"And it takes awhile for books to
get known. But once we started
g e t t i n g a reputation, and books
started getting reviewed, we did a
little advertising and our s a l e s
jumped tremendously."

liquid, and leaves them without a
giant inventory.
The company is financed by pri-
vate investors and headed by An-
drew Rock, who, says Hecht, "sup-
plies our vision." Along with co-
editor Andrew Carrigan (another
residential college professor), the
trio take care of every facet of
Street Fiction's business. Material
is not generally solicited, as Street
Fiction relies on the hundreds of
manuscripts they receive through
the mail. "To me, that's the name
of the game," Hecht says. "I see no -
advantage in going after big name
writers to try and publish with us.
I think the strength of the Press
is really in discovering new talent.
That's just not something you can
solicit."
STREET FICTION is totally inde-
pendent and most adamant in
their refusal of government grants,
unlike many other small presses.
"We don't think of ourselves that
way (as a small press), because we
don't take government grants. This
company will either make it or not
because we are able to sell books.
I think grants are a real limit on
your editorial freedom - to take
m o n e y from the government,"
claims Hecht. "If you have your
stuff paid for there is no motiva-
tion to sell the books. Most of those
small presses have minimal distri-
bution and to me that's like taking
someone's writing and robbing it.
Once it's in a book no one will re-
print it and if you don't distribute
the book no one will read it. The

.r 1.

Saturday
Magazine

r

can't support themselves, so they
have to be on a state of welfare.
To me it's almost unavoidable that
it would effect your editorial policy,
because you know the government
is going to be looking at it."
Street Fiction's books are all in
paperback, but are f i r s t edition
w o r k s and designed to compete
with the hardback m a r k e t. The
quality of the i r productions are
high, with thick beautifully photo-
graphed covers, thoughtful design,
and l a r g e print - something one.
rarely sees in today's mass paper-
back market. "I think Street Fic-
tion is pioneering quality paper-
backs for original f i c t i on," says
Hecht. "The entire publishing in-
dustry is moving in that direction,
but they are slow to get off their
base."
Although Street Fiction has had
great success with their work over
the past year, there is no threat of
them turning into a mamouth pub-
lishing house. They seem content
putting out four or five books a
year (seven or eight would be tops)
and giving each book their maxi-
mum effort, both editorially and in
promotion. Giraffe Raps, a graphics
satire, has sold over 25,000 copies

and No Relief, a s e r i e s of short
stories by Stephen Dixon, has sold
almost as well. "Dixon's the best. I
feel g r e a t publishing him," ex-
claims Hecht. "The N e w Y o r k
Times Book Review keeps review-
ing re-prints of John Updike books
-they never give any new energy
a chance. The whole industry's that
way and it feels good to be doing
something different."
Street Fiction seems to be suc-
ceeding on its own terms, but they
are by no means anti-commercial.
"I think free enterprise works as
well for publishing as it does for
any other business," He c h t says.
"We look for stuff of good quality
that will sell. Our writers make
good money."
Hecht also writes fiction, and has
published a book of his prose and
Carrigan's poetry entitled Baby-
burgers.
"Too many people are content to
write something and then say, 'Well
I wrote it, and let someone else
take care of it'," he says smiling.
"I like to control the whole trip."
Paul Shapiro is editor of the Saturday
Magazine.

The Press is a short run publish-
er, producing four of five books a
year and printing just 2500 copies
on the initial press run. According
to Hecht they have a special rela-
tionship with their printer which
allows them to go back again and
again, printing up to 5,000 copies in
two weeks. This keeps their capital

grants game is a very dangerous
thing. I think it's fine for the gov-
ernment to give grants to individ-
ual writers and artists, but when
the government starts funding the
means of getting the work to the
people, that is dangerous. It fosters
the idea in people that publishing
companies, especially n e w ones,

The following is anexcerpt
from Mac in Love, one of the
short stories in Stephen Dixon's
No Relief, Street Fiction Press,
1976.
She said "You're crazy, Mac,"
and shut the door. I knocked.
She said "Leave me be?" I rang
the bell. She said "Please don't
make a fuss." I kicked the door
b o t t o m. She said "Mac, the
neighbors. You'll get the police
here and me thrown out." I said
"Then let me in." She said "May-
be some other day." I said "Just
for a minute to explain." She
said "There's nothing to explain.
The incident's io v e r. It never
should've begun. It began and

now it's over. So go away. Now
don't get me evicted. It's a cheap
sunny place. It took me a long
time -to find. I like this apart-
ment, building and neighborhood
and I don't want to leave. You
leave. Please leave now? I know
you'll feel different in the morn-
ing."
I went downstairs and left the
building. Coming up the stoop as
I was going down, it was Jane's
closest friend. Ruth said "Hello,
Mac, you just up to see Jane?" I
said "Y es, and h o w are you
Ruth? Nice day out. Actually the
whole week's been grand. Some
weather we're having. Justlook
at the sky. No I'm serious: really

look at the sky." I pointed. She
looked. I said "Blue as can be.
And people talk about pollution.
But then they also say most pol-
lution can't be seen. The experts
say that, I mean, and that what
appears to be clean air because
the sky looks clean doesn't neces-
sarily have to be clean air but
dirty, except it doesn't look dirty
because most pollutants, because
of something to do with particles
and refraction, c a n 't be seen
with the average naked eye. Well
it's nice having the illusion if we
can't have the fact. What I mean
is at least it looks clean? Even
though it isn't, I'm saying. Or
rather they're saying -the ex-
perts."

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