Theater of Cruelty

Happy as little

H Press and Throttle pedal is something as unoriginal as micro publishing with great literary prestige. Gas pedalist Audun Lindholm dreams of several competitors.


[procurement scheme] The Norwegian Cultural Council's procurement scheme is dominated by the publishing giants, but Gasspedal and H Press are two microbes that have struggled in the heat in recent years.

- The purchasing scheme has added an enormous amount to the Norwegian language and literature, but at the same time the scheme has some less fortunate side effects: A standardization of book formats and genres and expensive books, says Audun Lindholm, editor of Gasspedal.

Last year, books such as Z by Pål Norheim and Vanlig by Kristine Næss were purchased from the two publishers, at the same time as they have also received production support through the Norwegian Cultural Fund. The releases excel with gorgeous design, strong editorial profile and innovative content – in other words the same mindset that characterizes small record companies such as Rune Grammofon and Smalltown Supersound.

While the Cultural Council's procurement scheme gives priority to the smallest label companies, it is the established publishers that make the most of the bookcake.

Several niche publishers

- The alternative is not to change the purchasing scheme, but for more people to do the same as Gasspedal and H Press have done. The Cultural Council also has funds with which other types of projects can be realized. I would like to see more publishers with publications that go beyond the major publishers' standard thinking: More niche publishers, more literary-oriented editorial projects and more literary exploratory texts. The major publishers have been writing for a long time – Gasspedal works project-oriented. Our activities and way of thinking are closer to magazines than large publishers, Lindholm believes.

He runs the Bergen-based publishing house with Susanne Christensen, and since 1999 they have released the green chicken fanzine (work title), the book series Library Gas accelerator and other projects that stretch the boundaries between book, booklet and art project, with contributions from people like Øyvind Ådland, Monica Aasprong and Danish Claus Beck-Nielsen. The purpose is to challenge and go beyond the literary institutions and conventions.

- It may seem that authors often do not think about the fact that they relate to a number of framework conditions when writing books – conditions they themselves could change. Good Norwegian custom is to adapt to norms and institutions, and have confidence in the system that exists, as if it were something given. But this is not the best recipe for a vital literary culture.

Both the Throttle pedal and H Press see themselves as a supplement to the established publishers, which is clearly evident at H Press, an Oslo based publishing house run by Jørn H. Sværen and Espen Grønlie. They have published the acclaimed series Serie A and Serie Imperativ, with books by established authors such as Thure Erik Lund, Tone Hødnebø and Øyvind Berg.

- H Press is a publisher without authors. There is no competition for the narrow literature in my head. H Press is a pompous and idiotic project, says Sværen.

- Why is it more credible for musicians to be released at small parties?

- I do not know, and I doubt whether credibility is the point. Perhaps the answer is that there are no real alternatives in the small country of Norway. The small publishers are too small and the big record companies are too big, Sværen believes.

- It is because the indie companies have a tradition and a catalog to refer to, which guarantees their integrity. The publisher's name becomes a sign of seriousness and the artist gets to take part in the symbolic capital of the company, Lindholm says.

Lindholm believes that the established publishers need stronger competition in the experimental literature.

- Many of the major Norwegian publishers polish the pearl door they guard with strikingly poorly adapted polish. They focus on competitions and lavish parties instead of an agenda-defining, literary and self-conscious publishing catalog. Why does Gyldendal not have a pocket catalog with central books such as Svein Jarvoll's En Australiareise? Why does Aschehoug not have a series of criticisms? Where is the philosophical

releases? We are many who would feel a stronger attraction to the major publishers if they focused more heavily on initiatives such as these.

- We must prioritize

[Culture Council] Why does the Norwegian Culture Council prioritize plates from small companies when the situation is the opposite in the book industry?

Liv Sandven, head of the phonogram procurement scheme at the Cultural Council, says that the committee deliberately gives priority to the small ones, because the large companies have great market access.

- This does not mean that the releases from large companies do not have qualities.

The purchase scheme for phonograms is far smaller than that for books. The Cultural

the council bought CDs for 8,8 million

In 2005, the total book purchase was NOK 74 million, including non-fiction, translated literature and children's and youth books.

- With the financial framework that the purchasing scheme for phonograms has, it is not possible to buy all publications that are of high quality, Sandven says.

This trade-off between market and quality is less visible in the literature. There, bestsellers like Jo Nesbø, Unni Lindell and Anne B. Ragde are bought, while smaller and fresh publishers struggle to reach it.

- When it comes to the rejection rate in relation to the purchasing scheme for Norwegian fiction, it looks worst for small publishers, says Mari Finess, section leader for

literature in the Culture Council.

If you look behind the numbers, you can see that many of the so-called small ones are single-man enterprises, and very often the author is identical to a publisher. ”, She adds.

- Then it will be difficult to get one

editorial critical work on the script. It is not the large or small publishing house that is decisive for the outcome, but the editorial effort.

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