Thursday, 20 March 2014

Freedom gives up on print

I haven't been a reader of Freedom since 1886, but it sometimes feels that, given there are samples of ancient back issues around the house and even some years of bound copies gathering dust. I started reading it in 1972, was an individual seller for a period and knew various contributors and editors including the late Colin Ward, Vernon Richards and Nicolas Walter, and the very much not late Dennis Gould. I particularly liked the magazine in the days when "Ian the Printer" from Margate would add his own column printed up the side of the back page, in those days when the late Arthur Moyes would also write incomprehensible art reviews. We go back a long way. I also own many Freedom Press books, one of which - Anarchy in Action - I refer people to in the bookshop if they want to read a primer on anarchism.
But all things must pass and Freedom is going online shortly. That one small magazine is going online is neither here not there in the grand scheme of things, but it is obvious from the bookshop that few people read the left press other than on line these days. I regret this immensely. I'm reprinting Freedom's statement. I guess it could easily be written by any small mag.
Since Freedom: A Journal of Anarchist Socialism first appeared in 1886 it has been in the form of a newspaper to be sold. Now the Freedom Collective has decided that we shall move content online accompanied by a freesheet after publication of the upcoming second issue of 2014. We have come to realise that a sold hardcopy newspaper is no longer a viable means of promoting the anarchist message. Despite a huge publicity boost to Freedom following the firebomb attack last year (shop sales rose 50%) there has not been a corresponding increase in distribution of the paper. Only 29 shops, social centres and individuals now sell it and the number of paying subscribers has fallen to 225. As a result annual losses now amount to £3,500, an unsustainable level for our shoestring budget.
Readers will have noticed that the paper has struggled to come out on time for some while. An underlying problem has been a lack of capacity to sustain it. We had hoped that Freedom would be adopted as THE paper of the anarchist movement. Despite a great deal of goodwill from anarchist groups and individuals over the years, sadly this has not been the case. Although Freedom Press has changed from a political group with a particular point of view to a resource for anarchism as a whole, we have not managed to shake the legacy of the past and get different groups to back it as a collective project. We hope an online version and freesheet will make that possible.
Subscribers will be offered a refund or book in lieu but we are happy to accept donations towards the costs of the new project. Charlotte Dingle will remain as editor and of course the shop, publishing and book distribution will continue as normal. As will the use of Angel Alley for meetings, events, offices, postal address and drop-in protest advice.
The print version could not have continues so long without the generosity of Aldgate Press, currently amounting to a subsidy of nearly £10,000 a year. They have very kindly agreed to print a regular freesheet/news compilation to enable us to keep in touch with our readers who don’t have the internet, and a special final edition, which will be released for the London Anarchist Bookfair in October.

Sinking Under the Surface

I know that some people have been waiting on copies of Under the Surface, our anthology of mining poetry, which was to have included work by Maria Taylor, Steve Ely, Helen Mort, Jonathan Taylor and many more including the great Idris Davies. Unfortunately we have had to abandon the book and a batch of associated readings. The editor went AWOL several months ago and we never received the text or even a final list of poems that were to be included. Apologies to contributors who have not heard from Five Leaves - we don't know what poems or poets were agreed, or what rights had been secured, other than the basic original list and chance conversations with poets at events. Had we received the text or a list of contributors we could have done something, but, despite effort, we have been left in the dark
We'll be cancelling all the shop orders and pulling the book from our lists.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ebook bargains!

Five Leaves produces an annual spined journal on a particular theme. They have sold well in the printed version, but only recently have we made them available as ebooks. Here's the offer:

The Maps and Utopia ebooks will be on special offer as countdown deals at Amazon's Kindle Store, at 99p each from midday on March 24th, £1.99 from 3pm on March 26th, then finally £2.99 from 6pm on March 28th, reverting back to their original price of £4.99 at 10pm on 30th March.

Alongside this special offer, the Crime ebook will be FREE at Amazon's Kindle Store for five days from midday on March 24th.


Monday, 10 March 2014

The "n" word

In 2006 Five Leaves republished Louis Golding's Magnolia Street, a novel of Jewish Manchester first published in 1932. The date is relevant. Ours was a straightforward - though newly typeset - reprint, with an introduction by Hugh Cecil. At the end of the introduction there is a discrete note which the layout indicates was a note from Hugh but was actually a publisher's note and should have been so described. It reads "Throughout this edition, the word 'nigger' has been changed to 'negro', 'black man' and (the Yiddish) 'schvartzer'. As used in the 1930s, the word was not so outrightly offensive as it has become in modern times. Otherwise, the original text, complete with some archaic spellings and punctuation, is unaltered."
Our edition remains in print, having occasional Manchester revivals, and will remain in print.
Today we received a complaint from a reader about the substitution. Our reader is no more a racist than Golding was at the time. Golding was simply using contemporary dialogue. Our reader - who is white, as I am - felt that it was inappropriate to alter the original text (though would have had no objection if we had included a note saying that Golding was using the language of the time). He was the first to comment on this issue out of the thousands who have read our edition, but nonetheless his views have validity. And I think they are wrong.
I accept that it would be foolish to muck around with older texts - I know that some of our reprinted novels of the 1960s include derogatory comment about "queers", I know that some of our reprinted novels used less than currently acceptable words about Travellers. I did not feel the need to change them - though would obviously think about the context and suggest appropriate changes if a modern novelist wanted to use inappropriate language as I would if someone wanted to use opaque, exclusive or academic language or, say, have working class people speaking in a stereotypical way. That is not to say that Five Leaves sets language police on our writers, these things are just everyday desk-editing.
I am not suggesting we go through Shakespeare with a fine tooth-comb, or ban Huck Finn from libraries. But there is something about the "n" word that makes me much more uncomfortable than, for example, casually racist comments about Gypsies (itself, now, a contested word) or Jews or gay people. In a previous job I dealt with - rejected - a complaint from someone about a poet referring (in a 1960s context) to the "Jewboys down the market" as she was writing in the argot of the period. Was it relevant that the poet's husband was one of the "Jewboys" in a Cardiff market? I don't know, but I rejected the complaint.
Having both Traveller and Irish and, by marriage, Jewish family connections I have heard, and challenged racists using anti-Gypsy and anti-Semitic language. I have never, personally, heard any anti-Irish comments though I know of them from family and friends. Hearing them is one thing, but would I change them in an old novel? No - I don't think so. But the "n" word trumps them all. I feel queasy typing it out earlier and I felt uncomfortable using it in a rational conversation about whether it should be used in text. And more uncomfortable that the discussion with our complainant, and another publisher (who does not share my view) was played out in the hearing of a Black person.
So, for now, while I accept the person who complained was doing so without malice, I'm standing by the original alteration. That word has blighted the lives of Black people, scarred people. I'll leave it out.