Posted on 20 February 2009. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Adam, Darren, Rob and Adeline from Zocalo
Tell us all about Zócalo; history, ethos, etc
Zócalo Press is: Adam Biles (editor), Darran Biles (editor), Rob Chant (marketing, branding and design), and Adeline Darling (project management and sales).
We are a new small press with an alternative approach to publishing and distribution, inspired by the chapbook format, the old broadside ballads and anarchist pamphleteers. The idea was born from an awareness that there is a lot of worthwhile writing out there which for a variety of reasons never makes it into press. The publishing industry in general has become more and more focused on writing with commercial potential. Whilst we aim to be at least financially sustainable, our values are focused around encouraging new writing and new perspectives in writing, and in upholding and promoting an ethical and sustainable approach to publishing.
What excites you about a piece of writing-
Adam: As someone who writes, the first thing that excites me when reading someone else’s work is the feeling of “Where did that come from?” I love to read a piece of writing that I know I could never have written. To feel that you are listening to someone who is not imitating, not trying to sound like this or that, but really writing from within…
Darran: Different things are exciting/depressing at different times, depending on when, where and how you come to them. I’ve not been especially stimulated by things on a first reading, but then immensely so on coming back to them, or sometimes a particular phrase or idea from something I’d pretty much passed over comes rising up as extremely relevant/pertinent at this moment (Tom Waits: “Never heard the melody till I needed the song”).
Adeline: I’m excited by anything that feels alive. I can read books that would not be considered ‘good literature’ if the author has a passion for what they are telling. I am most excited by the drive behind the writing, and best appreciate styles which do not draw attention to themselves but allow the reader to become absorbed in the world the author is creating.
Rob: Tight, hard, innovative writing, well fleshed out characters and visionary plotting or setting, as well as a disguised theme beneath the work (i.e. what it’s really about). Most important of all, however, is great atmosphere. All will be forgiven for great atmosphere.
and what makes your heart sink?
Adam: Consciously “creative” writing. Writing that depends too much on a thesaurus (although I am not against the use of a thesaurus – it can be a valuable tool). I think it’s important for a writer to own the words he or she uses.
Darran: I suppose that what I generally decidedly do not find exciting are typically, deliberately “exciting” events or situations involving guns and explosions, the fare of action films. (I recently read a Hermann Hesse essay in which he says he’s always had a distaste for such exciting events and tends to stay away from them in his novels). Any apparent striving for originality or creativity – whether it be by the inclusion of dramatic events or descriptive overload – could well have a depressing effect on my reading, “make my heart sink” as you say.
Rob: Clichéd writing more than anything else, especially when it comes to dialogue.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
Adam: I find such questions pretty intimidating. I always feel in a state of flux concerning my preferences. Right now I’m reading a lot of non-fiction: the writings of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Darran has just got me onto Krishnamurti, for which I’m very grateful. I guess I grew up into literature with the Beats and I still have a lot of affection for them, although I haven’t read them for a while. Salinger’s work – apart from Catcher – is unjustly ignored in my opinion, particularly the stories “Franny” and “Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenters”. Who else? Henry Miller, certainly, and not just the “Tropics”, and two of his mentors Blaise Cendrars and Celine. Moby Dick completely bowled me over too. I’ll stop there, I think.
Darran: Again, different at different times. D.H.Lawrence, Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Henry Miller, to name a few, are longstanding favourites. Recently I’ve been reading and been greatly impressed by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. Also Krishnamurti (not really an author) and Ted Hughes. If I look for something these writers have in common I might suggest an occupation with something besides writing, something more important – life perhaps, which the writing serves but to which it is finally incidental. There are more things than writing and literature, and culture finally can be a swaddling, stymieing oppressor.
Adeline: Some of my favourites include Keri Hulme, Anna Kavan, Kate Atkinson, Angela Carter, Greg Egan… “Steppenwolf” by Herman Hesse is probably one of my favourite books. As far as poetry is concerned, I think Ted Hughes’ collection, “Crow” is amazing. Robert Browning was my introduction to poetry, and I also have a fondness for Elizabeth Browning.
Rob: William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Alfred Bester.
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