At the present moment (March 2010), Calamari Press is about book objects. Any statement or manifesto about the press is contained in the summation of its books at this time. I can only speak to the framework that keeps these books in existence.
I started Calamari Press in 2003 at an interesting crossroads for books, where on one hand the Internet has provided a virtually free & unlimited marketing & promotion tool but on the other hand it has flooded the market & diminished reader's capacities & numbed their taste buds. With the more recent advent of social networking schemes the Internet has become even more super-saturated with promotion & self-promotion. This is not a world I am capable of competing in nor do I want to. Even writing this statement for the American Book Review seems a futile & shameless exercise that I fear will pigeon-hole me into a category of being an American "micro-press" that is trying to justify the necessity of it's existence or fight for a readership.
The existence of Calamari Press or any "micro-press" in & of itself should be what justifies the necessity of its existence. The books in & of themselves should be what makes people want to read them, not blurbs, reviews, ads, academic sponsorship, etc. Independence means you don't need to be told what to do. The same is true of independent bookstores—everyone is rallying for & trying to justify their continued existence saying we should support them. We live in a time of inevitable & irreversible climate change—we always have. For forty-five years we've been listening to Mick Jagger singing about how he was driving in his car, "& a man comes on the radio telling me more & more about some useless information—supposed to fire my imagination..."
Nothing's changed except we've swapped radios for the Internet. Brick & mortar has been replaced with vinyl siding. America is getting fatter & fatter consuming beyond the point of satisfaction. Americans for the most part have the lost the ability to taste, they just continue to consume what they are told to consume.
The only thing changing is that there's more & more of the same old shit. Temperatures are rising. Concerts still sell out & hipsters continue to stand around applauding mediocrity or worse. Museums are stuffed with people that just want to say they were there. The blogosphere (that is fast-replacing more traditional means of literary criticism) has become one big circle jerk where everyone applauds & pats each other's backs until you have no way of knowing what's what anymore.
Rather than build levees against the flood of mediocrity or fight for your continued existence in this saturated & over-satisfied world it would behoove one to adapt & move away from low-lying areas. I believe in laissez-faire economics & natural selection & if a press or bookstore doesn't survive then it was destined for extinction. Not that I don't believe some sort of intervention is necessary to preserve certain book objects that are in danger of extinction. In some ways that is what Calamari Press has become is a no-kill shelter for endangered books.
I spent last year in Kenya & am soon moving to Rome so a lot of my thinking lately is focused on making the press virtual & mobile & not tied into the American economic machine. Not that I won't continue to make physical book objects, but in this day & age there's no reason that the inner-workings of their availability can't be virtual. & I'm not ruling out the possibility of digital books or art forms. The challenge is how to not tether yourself to any other commercial media supply chains or technologies—to remain truly independent & preserve the integrity of the art. There's some wonderful traditions in Italy & Europe in general that I'm hoping to tap into (for example applying the principles of the Slow Food movement to books). There will be frustrations too & I'm not expecting Italy or any other place to hold any answers. While I might believe the market for American literature is dying, I truly believe & identify foremost with American literature. There's no denying that. Hopefully further removing myself from the inner-circle will enable me to better understand my place in it & the place of Calamari Press in American literature. I named the press Calamari because of the associations with ink, and this to me is the only association that matters & what will remain in the end is the indelible & undiluted impression of ink on paper.