Palgrave Pivot: An Author’s Perspective by Professor G. Douglas Atkins
For a while in the twentieth century, books of literary commentary—a term I prefer to the more familiar “criticism”—were sometimes short, occasionally no more than an essay capable of being read in a single sitting. T.S. Eliot’s Dante (1929), for example, stretches in book form to around 60 generous pages, and several others come to mind that were even shorter. I have always liked short books of analysis and comparison, length appropriate for works of explication, which should not overwhelm the primary text. Massive and unrelenting tomes all too often incarnate their pretensions to the monumental (and their authors’ pride).
My always supportive, responsible, knowledgeable, and astute New York editor at Palgrave Macmillan, Brigitte Shull, brought Palgrave Pivot to my attention, well aware of my preferences regarding book lengths. I was delighted. I set immediately to work, and have barely stopped writing since. So far I have six titles in Palgrave Pivot, published or at least accepted, the last being Swift, Joyce, and the Flight from Home: Transcendent Worlds and the Sin of Separation. I am happy to report that the reviews so far—of T.S. Eliot Materialized: Literal Reading and Embodied Meaning and S—have been excellent.
Palgrave Pivot’s importance is great. It lies, first of all, in its in-between character length-wise: a unique alternative to the “definite article” and the standard scholarly monograph. As titles of around 100 pages or less, Palgrave Pivot offers further promise and hope. I see the flexible length as an opportunity to publish—and an encouragement to write— an alternative kind of commentary, different not only in length but also in substance, manner, and style. I refer to an essayistic sort of writing, personal perhaps, certainly familiar, frankly exploratory in character (rather than monumental or encyclopedic), reflecting an intersection of text(s) and reader, and showing concern for both one’s own reader and the language in which we work.
In time, a wider readership might emerge for literary commentary, whose commercial condition is sadly (although understandably) depressed. Regardless, the shorter length stands, at the very least, to increase readership. I suspect, as well, that writers will be more inclined than often now, whether or not they write essayistically, to attend to their prose, to tighten the writing, to make it shapelier, more readable.
My experience with Palgrave Pivot has (obviously) been happy. I have enjoyed outstanding editorial support (unmatched by the several university presses with whom I have published), careful and helpful—and quick—outside evaluation, skillful production management, an incredibly short time from submission to publication (just a few weeks, instead of the year or two or more that I have experienced elsewhere), thorough marketing and extensive internet advertising, and a “product” pleasing to the eye and the touch alike—titles to be proud of. I will be happy to continue writing with Palgrave Pivot, and I recommend it to others unreservedly.