Small Press Center
- New York's Small Press Center has attempted to catch the buzz
of "Indie Films" by repositioning itself as the Center for
Independent Publishing. The Small Press Center was founded in 1984.
They are best known for their annual Book Fairs. After 21 years the
buzz you mostly hear at the SPC is like unto the buzz of flies
circling the dead. Indie poets?
Some months ago I was invited to chair a panel on independent
publishing at the Center. I hemmed and hawed and eventually accepted.
There would be a small honorarium. But I then asked him why he
"I thought of you to moderate because I was familiar with your column
in the Small Press Review in which you are a veteran observer of the
Small Press Scene. (Also, in a more mercenary move, I thought it
might help foster a closer relationship between Len F's operation and
the Small Press Center.)"
The parenthetical ulterior motive made me, of course, cancel my
appearance. But I told them I could not appear because the Small
Press Center, at least for this conference, seemed to favor the
commercial over the literary. I received this email back from the
SPC executive director Karin Taylor:
"The Small Press Center embraces all types of small presses, and
especially the values of non-commercial press, I am somewhat
surprised that you have decided to define our mission for us."
How dare I?! But if it seems to you that the SPC correspondence may
be a tad casual, let me point out that the advertising for the SPC
Book Fair generally features grotesquely amateurish drawings of
writers. In a brochure the SPC states:
"Publishers charging the author the full cost of production and
selling books back to the author in a `vanity' arrangement are
Yet the Center itself seems to be a vanity project of a gentleman I
have met once or twice named Whitney North Seymour. I have been
reliably informed that the SPC's terrible drawings are by his
daughter. The last time I was at the SPC the only New York event they
thought worth advertising was a talk on Edna St Vincent Millay by one
Samuel Whitney Seymour. At the top of the flyer was Millay rendered
by that SPC's own classically untalented amateur.
Once upon a time and for twelve years there was a real annual New
York Small Press Book Fair. It danced along the line between the
slick and sold-out and the dumb and dreary. I was slightly involved
but not as much as my ex-wife and friends. At one point a New York
company offered the Fair a free billboard. As an art critic, I was
asked to find someone who could do that job. I asked Andy Warhol. He
agreed. And then, classically, they rejected Andy as too slick and
When the SPC started their Book Fair, I was relieved that the ex-wife
was uninvolved, and happily exhibited. A number of times Fair
organizers approached me and asked me if I could get celebrity
authors to read for them, presumably, for free. These are people
born into New York society who never grasp the difference between
mere pedigree and actual achievement. The current president of the
United States, in this regard, also leaps to mind.
At one SPC Fair, Whitney North Seymour himself stopped by my table
and told me he was going to arrange for someone to write an article
about my little magazine, Unmuzzled OX. He never got around to it. I
hate writing negative articles. The Small Press Book Fair occurs the
first weekend in December. Check it out yourself at