“Are we all doomed?” a journalist on The Independent asked yesterday in relation to the book trade, and set about asking a number of leaders in the British book world what they had to be optimistic about.
A significant reply came from Stephen Page, Chief Executive of Faber & Faber, who hailed the fact that through the internet and innovations such as e-books, readers can now more easily find what they want to read and writers can engage with them.
Small independent publishers and imprints can do this with great focus, particularly in such areas as literary fiction, poetry and specialist interests, no longer dependent on the high cost of distribution to find a place in front of store of a High Street bookshop.
“All this began in earnest in 2010, and will accelerate in 2011 and beyond” he predicts. And this is precisely the door where Skylight Press comes in.
So much for the fact of Skylight’s existence. Let us take a look at its fiction – which has quite amazed me, not only in its quality but in its revelation of lesser known aspects of the human condition. I refer to:
HUGH FOX – DEPTHS AND DRAGONS
ALAN RICHARDSON – ON WINSLEY HILL
REBECCA WILBY – IN DIFFERENT SKIES
I am still reeling from the roller coaster ride of Hugh Fox’s story of Miriam, a modern heroine who survives the loss of her husband and then her sons in separate terrorist outrages to win through – via Tel Aviv, Paris and Toulouse – physical parallels of a journey of the soul through Zionism, Catholicism and modern Catharism to a revelation of her true spiritual roots.
Alan Richardson surprised us with his remarkable story about a young Edwardian girl whose natural psychism enabled her to touch the ancient powers of the countryside on Winsley Hill and to respond to them in a way far beyond the understanding of academic researcher or care home attendant – and find an amazing fulfillment of personal destiny in her 100th year.
And Rebecca Wilby’s amazing evocation of the links of shared memory that bind all together in times of great crisis, with a focus on the 1st World War. Having trod the ground that Rebecca treads on the Western Front and shared the realities that can still touch anyone of reasonable sensitivity, I found her multi-faceted tale a moving and valid depiction of inner as well as outer dynamics of the human condition, on both a personal and a national level.
None of these works would have been likely to see the light of day through the normal processes of the commercial publishing world. Which supports Stephen Page’s optimism about the role small, independent publishers can play in finding discerning readers for gifted writers – and worthwhile writers for intelligent readers – everywhere today.