Proposal for Book-Art, Anthologies, And Alternative Publishing

For over three decades now RICHARD KOSTELANETZ has been a prominent commentator on the related subjects of book-art and alternative publishing, especially in America. Touching upon many authors and issues in a clear critical style, his essays on these subjects have appeared in Partisan Review, Kenyon Review, New York Times Book Review, and many other magazines here and abroad; several, including his classic "Book Art," have been widely reprinted and anthologized. This will be the first time they appear together in a single volume. Since Richard Kostelanetz has published many other books about contemporary literature and art, most everyone interested in these subjects already owns at least one title authored or edited by him. His own efforts in these media--not only his book-art books but the annual Assembling that he co-founded and co-produced for a decade--have been honored and exhibited around the world. This book belongs among collections of his essays that have already appeared--on poetry, fiction, music, visual art, performance, and film/video.

Title Page

Book-Art, Anthologies, And Alternative Publishing: Salvos & Appreciations, 1965-1998
Richard Kostelanetz
Dedication: For Ruth & Marvin Sackner


In the offices of American publishers, an author can measure his current rating, and perhaps his future prospects, as soon as he steps out of the elevator and presents himself at the front desk. If your stock is high, you will immediately be recognized, your name will have been remembered. More likely than not, you will be kept waiting no more than a few minutes before you are ushered into the almost genial presence of your Editor. As you move through the corridors, between the desks, you will perhaps be greeted with a wave, a nod, an upbeat "Hi, there" from the Team, of which you might now feel yourself to be an honoured, if honorary, member. I have had one or two such golden moments and I treasure them. If things are going less well, however--if, alack, there is any sort of Problem with your Project, then you will soon enough be made to know it. The receptionist will have forgotten who you are, and will ask you to spell your name a couple of times before she eventually phones it through. The Team will be polite enough, but strained. Your Editor will be--shall we say?--preoccupied. You will be given the feeling that you (just like your manuscript) have suddelny become provisional, sub judice.--Ian Hamilton, "J.D. Salinger versus Random House, Inc" (1988), or GRANTA # 23

I should like to think of myself as writing for a wide audience in all of my imaginative work; I know that as a fact I write for a limited, scatterd, largely accidental audience. I believe it is due to my own defects--of style and sensibility and scope--that my audience is so limited; I have no personal justification for complaint. On the other hand I know that most of my contemporaries who I admire suffer from neglect through no personal defect; the lack of deep interest and performance is the readers' not the writers'. I assume that this condition has always prevailed; that it is due in our day partly to the money cost of reading, party to anthology-minded teaching of literature, and partly to plain incapacity.--R. P. Blackmur, contribution to "The Situation of American Writing" (1941)

These books appeared meteorically outside of the normal book market. They were financed by the authors themselves as playthings, much in the spirit of Dadaism, partly for the purpose of demonstrating artistic independence.--Szymon Bojko, New Graphic Design in Revolutionary Russia (1972)


Some of these essay previously appeared in American Book Review, Arshile, Art-Rite, Ballet Review, Bulletin Maximal Art, Centennial Review, Contact II, Information Ethics, Kalejdoskop, Kenyon Review, LAICA Jounral, Leonardo, Margins, Mota, The New York Arts Journal, The New York Times (Arts & Leisure), The New York Times Book Review, Only Paper Today, Partisan Review, The Reporter, Scree, Small Press Review, Umbrella, Visible Language, and other magazines, in addition to Artists' Books (ed. Joan Lyons, Visual Studies Workshop, 1985), Mavericks: Nine Independent Publishers (comp. Richard Peabody, 1983), The Publish-It-Yourself Handbook (ed. Bill Henderson, Pushcart, 1974), and other books by Richard Kostelanetz.

Note to Publisher: This book can or cannot be illustrated.


Book Art (1976)
Print-Out on the New Art (1968)
Merce Cunningham's Self-Book (1969)
Don Celender (1980)
Michel Butor's Mobile in America (1964)
Jean-François Bory (1974)
Tom Phillips (1976, 1985)
Bern Porter (1973)
Emmett Williams (1975)
Marshall McLuhan (1967)
Paul Zelevansky's Trilogy (1991)
Visual Literacy (1983)
John Cage's Song Books Score (1995)
Books by "Artists" (1983)
Sloppy "Scholarship" (1997)
Constructivist Fictions (1974)
And So Forth (1979)
Symmetries (1985)
Sleight of Hand, or How an NEA Book-Art Fellowship to Me Was Reduced and Nearly Killed (1998)
On Anthologies (1989)
Some Notes About the Editing of Book Anthologies (1997)
Collecting Cultural Magazines' Self-Retrospectives (1998)
Alternative Book Publishers (1974)
New Directions (1965)
John Martin: A Happy Publisher (1980)
Why Assembling (1974)
Recalling Assembling (1997)
Orson Welles's Radio Books (1989)
Literary Videotapes (1989)
A new memoir about my own publishing of language art in alternative media--audio, video, film, holography, etc.


Book-Art and Alternative Publishing--I've been both practicing and writing about these two subjects my entire life, perhaps even longer than I've been aware of them as terms descriptive of certain radical activities. And though I'll probably continue to write about them in one form another, now is a good time to collect my writings particularly about this subject into a single volume.

One quality of my essays is that they are written in the common tongue, Perhaps because I've worked most of my life without affiliation, I never had any need to pretend I was anything other than one human being writing for another.

One theme of these essays is that the terms must be taken seriously--both book art and alternative publishing is honorific--and thus that people who use the epithets, who write about the subject, must treat them as seriously as they would anything else worthwhile. There are no excuses for indulgence or exploitation--none. To what degree these two subjects are really one is for readers and reviewers to discover and decide.

Otherwise, I'm grateful to XYZ for publishing these essays and to ABC for shepherding them into print.