A Brief History of Motive

Literary publishing has enjoyed at least two great moments in the twentieth century: the explosion of small presses and journals in the 1920s and their resurgence in the late fifties and early sixties. There have been other percolations, of course, but few have compared with these two volcanic reckonings, each in their way passing stern judgment on the barrenness of conventional culture. William Carlos Williams made the project of small presses and journals as clear as anyone. “Noble,” he said, “has been changed to no bull.” And he was right. Clearing the air of cant and superstition, finding sincere voices willing to risk the truth: these were the motivations behind the upstart journals and presses of his time. And the Beats reminded us that the mission to reclaim serious writing from mainstream culture was not yet done.

It has been a long time since the Beats, and many others have pressed on with the project. The zine movement of the eighties and nineties, for example, turned away from the worthless imprimatur of sales figures and press runs and instead embraced the urgency of discovery. They were after authenticity and honesty and a hard, pure, insistent art that spoke truly of and to the times. If zines seem to have lost some of their energy, it is perhaps because they were so radically local and particular. But circumstances have changed and the times are again calling for principled action.

As mainstream publishing tosses aside books that its ministers of marketing have failed to anoint, it is becoming increasingly isolated from and irrelevant to serious readers and serious writers—and to the culture.

The literary landscape has broken in two. As the castle walls grow more ornate, the countryside is blazing with desire.

These are exciting times for independent literary publishers. With so many young writers of purpose coming out of MFA programs—they have multiplied exponentially—there has been an unprecedented surge in literary publishing. Small journals and independent presses are alive and thriving. The growth of the AWP Conference tells the story with its swelling ranks over the last few years reaching nearly 9,500 attendees at the 2011 and 2012 conferences. The smart, disillusioned writers and readers who comprise those numbers are again taking back the world of letters.

It is in this spirit that Braddock Avenue Books was founded.

We are a small literary press dedicated to reducing cant and sentimentality—one good book at a time. Our publication goals are ambitiously modest: literary fiction, long-form essays on contemporary subjects, and serious graphic fiction/nonfiction.

Put it this way, Braddock Avenue Books was created to provide a forum for devoted writers who want to resist the glib, the superficial, and the banal. In a word, when “edginess” becomes a fashion statement and “experimental” looks like a gimmick, it is time to take a stand. Braddock Avenue Books is willing to fight the good fight by publishing books with heart and soul.