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To the University Press


I appreciated Margaret Renkl’s ode to the university press. That’s not so much because of the academic writing that gets published at university presses, which is so key to all of us trying to survive in the academic world. No, it’s because of all the other interesting works, fiction or non-fiction, that get published by these presses. No one makes any money off these books, not real money anyway, but this becomes a place to publish when you can’t get the huge presses to publish your books. They also serve a critical archival function. Earlier today, I finished reading Sanora Babb’s Whose Names Are Unknown. Babb was a leftist author (later married to the pioneering Chinese-American cinematographer James Wong Howe) who wrote this book about Okies moving to California under the oppression of the Great Depression and the terrible conditions farmers faced there. She sent this in….and then Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath. The publishers decided there was only room for one book like this. It never saw the light of day. And to be fair, it’s a pretty good book but it is not The Grapes of Wrath. But it still has significant historical value and is worth reading. So, in 2004, the University of Oklahoma Press finally published it, well after Babb’s death. This is the kind of thing that a university press does. It’s why they are so great. But the funding behind these enterprises is quite shaky and they have slowly declined over the years. Farley has talked about this in the pass with the University of Kentucky Press and that story is true around the nation. So pay attention to these presses and buy some of their books!

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