details: you have a manuscript, you getnthe manuscript printed, you try to sellnthe book. Money is the determiningnfactor all along the way, but it becomesndominant at the distribution end. Thenbig guys have a very expensive systemnin place: a network of salesmen whoncover limited territories, representing, ifnit is a really large publisher, only it.nThe books are presented to thenvarious wholesalers, jobbers, and retailnestablishments under the iron law ofnTime Is Money. The more tides, thenless time for each tide.nThe small presses generally don’tnhave this going for them. Some of thenlarger small guys have banded together,nand they do have sales reps who poundnthe pavement. However, they have tonmake their living by offering, alongnwith literary tides, books on how to getnthose mushrooms growing. (Mushroomsnwill outsell a “good” novel anytime).nIf this all sounds like business —nthe selling and promoting of soap powder—nyou’re getting close. Publishingnis a business. We are talking about shelfnspace, line feet, ad budgets, you washnmy hand, I’ll wash yours … we arentalking product. So where does the thinnvolume of poetry end up, that prosenwork difficult to define? You can guessnthat one next time you go into Waldenbooks.nThe Dial, which had a circulation ofnonly 300, published Thoreau andnEmerson. But we know from readingnAlbert Jay Nock that this was all backnwhen people still read and were notnjust processing books.nCloser to our time, GilbertnSorrentino was the editor and foundernof Neon, one of the key littie magazinesnof the postwar period. The firstnissue (in 1956) was done in 250 copiesnand placed in three bookshops in NewnYork and one in San Francisco. Nonwider distribution was necessary. Hendid five issues of the magazine andnby the end his circulation was 300.nThe magazine folded in 1960 andnSorrentino went on to Kulchur, ofnwhich he later wrote:nKulchur was a remarkablenpublication because its strengthncame from the fact that itsneditorial position was rooted inna true artistic community, andnthat community was rooted in angreat city. It was alive becausen50/CHRONICLESnit grew out of a specificnmodern movement and becausenit was necessary to thatnmovement’s cohesion. [WilliamnCarlos] Williams told me, justnbefore Neon began, that a littlenmagazine’s only rationale is itsneditor’s belief that the writersnhe prints must be presented asna group. Anything else is just ancollation of pages.nWriting in 1978, Sorrentino made ansuggestion which is pertinent and stillnmosdy unfulfilled:nI suspect that a newnmagazine — perhaps even onenof “criticism and comment,”nlike Kulchur — will soon bennecessary. The generation thatnhad just begun to write andnpublish in the mid-sixties hasnbeen around for more than andecade. Although the writers ofnthis generation have publishednin many magazines (publishednmany books as well) andnfounded many others, theynhave been curiously andninexplicably uncritical of eachnother and of everybody else;nand everyone seems to likeneveryone else’s work. Thensituation is oddly passive, andnmany of the magazines innwhich these writers appear readnlike the later issues of ThenFloating Bear — all charm,ngossip, and news notes. Thesenyounger writers have nevernestablished a critical position fornthemselves; it seems to benbeneath them. Perhaps it is.nMaybe they are too close to myngeneration to assaultnit—certainly they were born, asnit were, into an era that wasnkind to them.nToday there are a great many morenmagazines and much more activity, butnthere is no way of telling what will livenon into memory. Sticking my neck out,nI would say that the most importantnsmall presses today are Black SparrownPress, Dalkey Archive Press, StationnHill, McPherson & Co., Coffee HousenPress, Amok Press, Jargon Press,nEridanos, Graywolf, and Lapis Press,nthough I am sure I have missed some.n(You can write to Small Press Distribu­nnntions, 1814 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley,nCA 94702 and ask for their completencatalogue. They represent more thann300 small presses.)nThe small press worid is mostly anmirror of the wodd of big-time publishing,nthough they’ll never admit it. Therenis the same venality, stupidity, rottenntaste, bad ideas, faddishness—all laidnon top of even greater incompetencenthan is displayed by the big guys innprobably the worst-run business innAmerica. When culture gets mixed upnwith money, the worid of the smallnpress really gets the bends, becausenthere is so much less money, and thenpsychological cut and thrust is thatnmuch fiercer.nBut to answer Sorrentino’s questionnas to why there is no criticism within thensmall press: you never know whomnyou’ll need when to get a job, or a grant.nAlso, no one knows who’s any good. Sonhow can anyone say anything aboutnanyone?nI know a writer in New Orleans whonhas a shelf eight feet long on which henhas arranged some of the hundreds ofnmagazines in which he has publishednfiction, poetry, and essays. He has notnpublished a book. No one really knowsnwho he is. Mostly no one reads thesenmagazines. He is a good writer, if younwill take my word for it. There arenhundreds of writers out there like himnwith their piles of magazines. I know anpoet here in New York who has publishednthe same poem in over 25 differentnmagazines. There has been nonoverlap in audience and no complaintsnor comment.nJack Saunders of Delray Beach, Floridanhas written 40 books. Two havenbeen printed in hardcover, some of thenothers in paper. The books are a recordnof his life and his obsessive interest innwhy the New York publishers won’tnpublish any of his books about hisnobsession to be published by a NewnYork publisher.nI know a former editor of the BrooklynnReview, a literary magazine connectednto the English Department ofnBrooklyn College. Really, he was tellingnme, you only have to print upnmaybe a hundred copies of the magazine,nenough to give to the contributorsnand close friends. No one else isnreally interested. There have beenncomplaints at the Gotham Book Martnthat more people copy addresses ofn