Part book fair, part secret salons, a small two-day celebration called Open Press debuts in Los Angeles this weekend. A dozen independent publishers and literary organizations, all emphasizing avant-garde or experimental narratives, will host readings and discussions. Of course, there will be pop-up bookstores, too.
"It's kind of amazing the literary energy that's been amassing in L.A. over the last decade," says Mathew Timmons, one of the organizers. Timmons, who graduated from Cal Arts in 2005, is the founder of one of the participating publishers, Insert Blanc Press.
Timmons and the other organizers, including Andrea Quaid of Les Figues Press and Harold Abramowitz of Eohippus Labs, have, he explains, "a restlessness with the forms that are already here."
That includes an actual bounty of local literary festivals; in addition to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, there are the Art Book Fair, the West Hollywood Book Fair, the Downtown Book Fest at Grand Park, LitCrawl in North Hollywood, Zinefest and the evolving Litfest Pasadena.
What Open Press hopes to achieve is greater intimacy mixed with intellectual ambition. Timmons says it was inspired, in part, by "the house reading vibe that happens a lot in Brooklyn and Oakland." There will be two sessions per day, taking place at four separate locations.
The mission, as the Open Press poster proclaims, is "to transform our homes (or headquarters) into temporary public sites where literary practices can be discussed and engaged."
Interested parties who want to engage can visit the website to learn about each event. Admission is free. The exact location of each event will be shared only after an email RSVP.
The events are not for everyone. Panels will questions such as "What does it mean to make books and curate literary experiences as an artist-run press?" and "How do various literary practices—reading, writing, editing—navigate a body whose sensory capacity has been compromised?"
Together, they publish a lot of poetry and prose, and poetry and prose combined in unusual ways. There are online publications, of course, but also many printed chapbooks and monographs. Published in small runs of hundreds of copies, Timmons says, "it's literature that moves faster than official book culture."
Open Press' sessions are at noon and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Visit openpressevent.blogspot.com for more info.