There’s something appealing about a little book, a book you can easily shove into a pocket or an envelope, a book that looks like it costs no more than a dollar or two. Why is this such an enduring form? Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was launched to the world in the form of a little book, the first of the City Lights Pocket Poets series. Voltaire’s Candide was censored all over Europe, but it was slim enough to sneak around as a pamphlet. Some of the great religious books of all time, from the Tao Te Ching to the Bhagavad Gita to the four gospels were also admirably tiny texts, which couldn’t have hurt their impact. And let’s not forget the “Little Golden Books”, those flimsy contraptions of cardboard and gold foil that so many of us grew up with as kids.
Mini-publishing may be as old as Lao Tzu, but it remains an emerging paradigm, ripe for experimentation. Check out BukAmerica‘s line of small and undeniably cute books, nicknamed “Buks”. They cost $1.49 each, they are organized into six categories (“Idea Buk”, “Word Buk”, “Story Buk”, etc.) and they sport matching logos in a big, smiley font.
Melville House, the publishing company that runs the Moby Lives website, is also in the tiny-book biz with a new offering. Presented as the Art of the Novella series, these titles offer an admirably wide variety of intellectual classics, from Turgenev to Flaubert to, naturally, Melville. Some of these texts are well-known; more importantly, some are not, and maybe this venture will help to make them more so.
I like this new trend a lot, even though the thick and wordy end of the spectrum, represented by the likes of William Vollman and John Irving, is still running strong as well. C’mon, guys. Let’s get small.