A Celebratory Nod to the Year of the Improbable

KENSINGTON, MD — Tonight, as we tip our hats and we click our glasses to the passing of another year, we’ll each take away our own party favor from 2010 and when we hold it up to inspect the contents, to form an imprint of the experience, we’ll each perceive our farewell present—our Hello, I-Must-Be-Going possession, in a different light.

Some of us will conduct our year-end assessment and complain about the color: “Pallor doesn’t suit me.” Others will pull at the stitches, tear at the seams, and sulk about the inferior quality of this year’s fabric: “Surely, this is proof that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and it’s quite likely made in China.” And still others will attend a church of the mind and praise the marvel of creation—the delicate construction of any object with meaning, and acknowledge the no-small wonder of beginning each waking day with nothing and ending it with something: “Life is good.”

A fresh New Year’s perspective never goes out of fashion. It arrives always on time, in fine threads, unsoiled. And leaves without loitering, perhaps wrinkled and tattered, but a little wiser and more comfortable in its own skin.

For Atticus Books, 2010 was the year of the improbable. We started a small, literary press on the digital wing of papyrus, a leaky fountain pen, and a prayer that even Owen Meany couldn’t have fathomed. We signed eight writers to book contracts, formalized an agreement with a distributor we respect, and met and worked with a whole slew of individuals whose creative talents are too numerous to convey.

For Atticus Books, 2010 was the year of the implausible. We ascertained our belief in the importance and endurance of literature. We watched incredulously and admirably as a small press won a huge literary prize. We applauded the arrival of the iPad, the advent of Google eBooks, and the evolution of an age-old profession that is in full-blown historical flux for the benefit of civilized readers worldwide.

For Atticus Books, 2010 was the year of immersion. We immersed ourselves in circles of those smarter than us, those bolder than us, and those more experienced than us. We immersed ourselves among poets and artists, presses and e-zines, bloggers and booksellers, and industry leaders and fictional characters whose collective integrity and depth are what make each of us leap out of bed in the morning.

A poet friend recently commented that critics often complain that novelists don’t address the big issues of our culture. Esquire Magazine, in reviewing Don DeLillo’s new novel, Point Omega, called DeLillo: “One of those rare writers whose work has transcended literary circles and touched the wider culture.” For Atticus Books, 2011 will be the year of the impossible. For 2011, our goal is to produce works by novelists who do address the big issues of our culture. This alone should be the indelible mark and distinction of all literary fiction. It separates the lofty from the pedestrian. The canyon from the curbside. It doesn’t mean our books are holier than thou or even better or more elegant than thou; it just means they’re striving to make a difference.

Our publishing house’s new mission statement for 2011:

To produce and disseminate work that transcends literary circles and touches the wider culture.

May your 2011 be filled with mystery and glory, and may you witness firsthand the generosity of man’s enduring spirit. May you look back at your year 2010, even if the party favor has fallen well short of—or is quite different from—your expectations, and think: “What hasn’t killed me has made me stronger, indeed.”

2 thoughts on “A Celebratory Nod to the Year of the Improbable”

  1. Dear Dan, your mission statement affirms two points I've tried to make all year at readings and elsewhere:

    — our culture has a much too narrow view of its heroes; they often live in cardboard boxes, work in cubicles, publish and create against all odds, and pass their lives under our noses;

    — the news is not what we think it is or where we think it is; the real news in our culture is in our poetry, our art, our music; the rest is ephemeral commotion.

    Happy New Year and blessings!

    Djelloul Marbrook

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