The ANTIBOOKCLUB's one-man book band
Gabriel Levinson is a one-man book phenomenon. Notorious for conceptualizing ways to draw new readers to the books they really shouldn’t miss (see: the Book Bike), in 2010 he launched ANTIBOOKCLUB, an independent press dedicated to publishing titles of superior quality.
Levinson gives everything over to this task, self-financing and dedicating every moment to the pursuit, and presentation, of great literature. At Foreword Reviews, we’ve enjoyed his work and have been impressed by his dedication. Below the news, read more about what drives this passionate publisher, and about what we can expect from his future releases.
First, the News
An Eclectic Journey: These six exciting travel books from our Winter 2016 issue will carry you to a variety of global locales–from Indonesia to Japan, from Ukraine and back home again.
A World In Danger: In our Winter issue, we shared a few critically important books on climate change–on how it’s impacting ecosystems at both local and global levels, and on ways we might respond to it conscientiously.
Featured Reviews of the Week
Blackass, by A. Igoni Barrett. The author’s fresh and irreverent voice demands to be heard in this riotous and biting satire about race. Reviewed by Nancy Walker.
The Devil You Know, by Elicka Peterson Sparks. This book addresses a dark but pervasive truth: America has a crime problem that may have its roots in Christianity. Reviewed by Melissa Wuske.
Verklempt, by Peter Sichrovsky. Authentic, reportorial stories explore diverse articulations of modern Jewish identity. Reviewed by Jeff Fleischer.
From the Great Wall to the Great Collider, by Steve Nadis and Shing-Tung Yau. Scientific innovation and geopolitical interests collide in this significant new work of popular physics. Reviewed by Scott Neuffer.
Civil Rights for Beginners, by Paul Von Blum; illustrations by Frank Reynoso. With its engaging graphic novel-style illustrations and comprehensive details, this is an illuminating and balanced introduction to civil rights efforts. Reviewed by Maria Siano.
In addition to running ANTIBOOKCLUB single-handedly, you’re the associate managing editor at Abrams Books. What motivated you to take on the additional challenge of starting your own press?
I had been doing ANTI for nearly four years before I began my work at Abrams, but the answer is no different than if it were as you proposed: This work consumes me. I live and breathe books, I don’t know what else to do or talk about. There are only three activities I can think of where I am fully present: cooking, fucking, and riding my bike. All else takes a back seat to books. I have a few friends who haven’t given up hanging out with me, thankfully, because all they hear is this publishing stuff. No matter how engaged I am in conversation, a piece of me is crunching numbers over and over to figure out how to pull off something our designer wants to do, or I’m spacing out thinking of my authors waiting on their edits and the last thing I should be doing is having a drink and not delivering. It’s how I feel responding to this interview! The guilt! You don’t want to be in my head, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, it won’t let up, it won’t let me kick back, it’s relentless. And anyway, how can I become a better editor, a better publisher, a better reader, if I relegate myself to doing this only from 9 to 5?
You take on offbeat titles: works in translation. The letters of a satirist; zany essays and short stories. What do these eclectic titles have in common?
There are so few perks to being truly independent. I cannot stress that enough, I feel no romance for this, I have an obligation to my authors to get their work read and what I am doing needs to expand, it needs more resources and more people and I would have no objection to getting “bought out” if that means our work will be recognized but I ain’t holding my breath. And, truth be told, the longer I remain independent, the harder it is going to be for someone to buy me out. I don’t have to answer to market trend, so I’m not going to limit ANTI to a particular style. Our ethos is in our name, yeah? So I guess what these books have in common is me. I seek out work that shatters my world and I stop at nothing to get it in your hands. I get to put a couple more books on the library shelves so the next kid in Webster Groves, Missouri spending her summers inside the library will be able to discover even more bizarre and beautiful and challenging stories than I did.
In the past, you’ve acted as a one-man bookmobile. To finance ANTIBOOKCLUB, you sold off much of your own book collection. These are passion moves. Where does that passion for books stem from?
I don’t believe it has anything to do with passion. I have things I want to do before I die, and every day I wake up I am certain it will be my last so there really isn’t time to waste convincing others. We wouldn’t be talking right now if I was caught up in fundraising, itself a full-time job. Can you imagine? No Book Bike, no ANTIBOOKCLUB. Every person I know has had their career derailed or compromised at some stage in their life. There is no security to be had in our world. I think about that a lot. About how, in a way, it would be so nice to just come home from work and be home from work. But that isn’t to be. ANTI exists because I don’t do the right thing, the financially sound thing, I don’t do that. I have been called an entrepreneur and I resent that. That’s so wrong. The thing that separates me from an entrepreneur is business sense. I’m just a bullheaded idiot who loves making books.
Do you see any connection between the Book Bike and the newest trend in book sharing, Little Free Libraries? Care to proffer an opinion on Little Free Libraries?
Little Free Libraries are wonderful! Any project that engages and inspires a community to read, to educate through literature, and to not only do that but to make a public spectacle of it? C’est magnifique. For a sublime example of this “newest trend,” look up Luis Soriano and his Biblioburro. I remain in awe of him.
What’s next for ANTIBOOKCLUB?
This fall I’ll be publishing our first fiction novel by an American author: Beautiful Gravity by Martin Hyatt. I’m so excited for this one; it flies in the face of American publishing’s obsession for the epic and the unwieldy née the glassy-eyed gaze of the MFA machine (which is so passé, innit?). I want to set a new precedent of expectation from American lit and I think Martin’s novel is going to take us in the right direction. Beautiful Gravity is a love story unlike any you’ve read before; it is quiet and devastating, utterly raw in emotion, abrasive in honesty. Check it: No one is going to remember this interview by the time the book comes out, this isn’t marketing jive, this is how I feel. The book wrecks me every time I read it.
If you could commission a book from any artist, living or dead, what would it be?
Every book I publish is my dream come true. And that’s not a cop-out “I love all my kids equally” answer. If I ever have kids, I will have a favorite and the lesser ones will know. What I’m getting at is I have already commissioned the book you are asking about. For real. You’ll just have to wait and see. The next few years from ANTI are going to be eye-popping.