The Next Project - Call it "Larding"

Posted on by Jordan Hurder

So, with MJP’s book completed (and almost SOLD OUT in the limited edition), don’t think we’re slowing down here at Chance Press HQ (aka, our run-down apartment in Oakland where we were without power last night because our fuse box can’t tolerate a microwave and toaster running at the same time).  The truth is that I have been hard at work getting ready for our next book, the working title of which is “Larding.”

Why the funny title?  “Larding” is the name of a style of experimental writing that was developed by the Oulipo, the mostly-French workshop of “Potential Literature.”  The goal of the Oulipo is to use various constraints to focus and augment the creative process, rather than letting the creative mind run free (think of the absolute opposite of stream-of-consciousness writing).  Constraints can range from the lipogrammatic (writing a text without a certain letter or phrase, such as the letter “e”) to the mathematical (constructing the relationships between characters in a story based on a geometric shape or algebraic equation).

“Larding” is the process of beginning with two sentences, and then inserting a sentence in between the original two, and repeating this process as long as you have the patience.  If you start with two sentences, after one step you’ll have three sentences, then five, then nine, then seventeen, and so on.  The idea to publish an experiment like this came from a type of book design I saw and thought would be perfect for larding.  It’s not quite the cart leading the horse, since we consider ourselves book designers as much as publishers, but I hadn’t even thought of doing this project until I saw another publisher use this particular design and realized that the two go together perfectly.

Now, we both know that, sales-wise, this project could fall flat on its face.  Our main customer base (the generous book lovers at even started a forum thread making fun of Oulipo as self-indulgent and boring (not in response to this project, of course), so there’s a pretty good chance that copies won’t exactly be flying into their hands.  Still, the whole point of this enterprise in the first place is to branch out from the small press staple of poetry and publish writing that we are both passionate about.  (Not, of course, to disparage publishers who focus primarily on poetry, as I assume that those publishers are simply publishing what *they* love… but as a publisher starting out, it is really easy to fall into a groove, especially with the amount of poets who are looking to have their work published in the small press.)  Me, I have been an ardent fan of Oulipo for over a decade, so this book is really something that I’m looking forward to putting out.

It will be by far the most labor-intensive project I’ve undertaken so far (the Hines book was also very labor intensive, but Justine did most of the work on that one) – each will have an accordion-folded spine with five individually sewn signatures, cloth-covered boards on the front and rear covers, french flaps with pastedowns inside, and gocco-printed cover labels.  I’ve been working on the pre-work for this edition while collaborating on the text with two very talented writers (to be announced later), so that by the time the text is done, we “merely” have to sew the signatures into the edition and it will be finished.  Still, we don’t expect to be ready with it before April, and only then if it doesn’t end up being More Work Than We Expected.