Paris Review – Press Pass: Dorothy, Nicole Rudick

In 2010, Danielle Dutton founded Dorothy, a publishing project, with the aim of producing books that appeal both to fiction readers and to poetry fans. Her own writing—she is the author of two novels, Attempts at a Life and S P R A W L—likewise embraces the slipperiness of not quite being one or the other. The covers she designed for Dalkey Archive, meanwhile, were often as minimal and tonal as the writing within. Who better, then, to shepherd formally unconventional, handsomely made little books into being? On the occasion of her third year of books—she produces a pair each year—I spoke with Dutton by phone about her one-woman operation.

How would you describe the aesthetic of the press?

Part of the idea of starting the press was that I felt that I was in two different camps. In working at Dalkey, I felt tapped into American literary fiction and translation. At the same time, my own writing was more small press, experimental, and I felt that, much of the time, there is little crossover between those two communities. The idea, then, was to publish two books each year that are aesthetically different, in order to try to develop a crossover readership.

The fiction community that my own writing was coming out of at the beginning was really loose and close to poetry, and it seemed like that there was no cross-reading going on. So I published Renee Gladman, who started as a poet. The other book I published that first year was a novel by Barbara Comyns that was out-of-print. I offered those two books together at a special discount to encourage people to buy both when they come looking for just one—to get Renee Gladman’s book into the hands of Barbara Comyns’s readers and vice versa. So the aesthetic is open, but it’s all work that is risking something, that is adventurous aesthetically or structurally.

What community did you develop in as a writer?

I did my MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I knew almost nothing about creative writing when I got there. I wasn’t an English major. I didn’t even know other writers. I remember have the realization when I was living in England, working at a Waterstones bookstore right after college, that people were alive and still wrote books!

At the Art Institute, I developed in a space of multimedia and interdisciplinary work, among writers who were performance artists and sound artists. Many of my friends were poets, and when I went to Denver to do a Ph.D., I found a strong poetry community there, with Naropa in Boulder. Renee Gladman talks about writing prose with the nearby presence of poetry, and I felt that that’s what I was coming out of. And for a while I wasn’t sure what I was doing. With my first book, I wasn’t sure if it was poetry, but then I realized I was deeply interested in narrative, even if I wasn’t writing traditional plot.

And you found the poets you knew weren’t reading fiction and vice versa?

I still know a lot of people like that, actually. I don’t want to generalize—there are plenty of poets who read fiction and fiction writers who read poetry—but there was an area of experimental fiction that seemed overlooked by both camps. A lot that gets lost in the middle. Reaching that middle was the hope—but it’s such a utopian hope.

If publishing books that fall into that gap between narrative and poetry is part of your aim, is the other part publishing works by women?

I wanted to create a space where women felt encouraged to submit their work. Working at Dalkey, I saw that the number of submissions were overwhelmingly from men. Right around this time, too, I was talking about a book with a man who said to me, “I really liked it because five pages in I didn’t know it was written by a woman. I couldn’t tell a woman had written it.” And I thought, Are you kidding me? Are we still talking about this nearly a hundred years after A Room of One’s Own?

via Paris Review – Press Pass: Dorothy, Nicole Rudick.

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