Random Thoughts on granarybooks.com
Granary Books went dot-com in April of 1996. The site was designed and organized by writer / artist / webmaster / dj Kenny Goldsmith (later expanded by visual artist Julie Harrison) and initially comprised pictures and short descriptions of a mere ten titles. Yet with this modest offering (let it be noted here that early observers described it as "pathetic") e-commerce history was in the making. Tears well to remember the hysteria of buying and selling that transpired over the next 72 hours! All titles went immediately out-of-print. Virgin territories were exploited in such under-recognized markets as Chad, Micronesia, Bosnia and East Timor. The fever to buy and own went unchecked for days while the status and prestige value of possessing, for example, a copy of A Passage by Buzz Spector, was radically intensified. The influx of surplus cash did not alter (yet) the lifestyle of the Laird of Granary, Steve Clay, and his family; they continued to live quietly in a burned-out van on the banks of the East River near the Fulton Fish Market. But those were the early days! One gasps to recall the changes which followed. In a vain effort to match demand Granary published an astonishing 37 titles over the next two years. Ranging from a trade edition of Charles Bernstein's and Susan Bee's Log Rhythms a collection of essays and interviews by Johanna Drucker (Figuring the Word), deluxe limited luxury editions by Lyn Hejinian & Emilie Clark (The Traveler and the Hill, and the Hill), Larry Fagin & Trevor Winkfield (Dig & Delve), among others. The enterprise appeared unstoppable, like a runaway steamroller smashing sales records and trammeling the competition like so many tired ants. Worth an estimated $77 billion after the second quarter of 1999, trouble erupted at Granary when an employee developed laxity in the basal thumb joint due to the repetitive action of processing orders via the bank card machine. Although this action precipitated a bitter law suit televised on Judge Judy, the real turnaround can be pinpointed to Clay's highly publicized Marxist-Hegelian meltdown which occurred over lunch at Mustang Sally's on Seventh Avenue while reading Ben Watson's Art, Class and Cleavage. Clay and his family disappeared from New York City in early February of 2000. Although incommunicado, they are known to be living in Cuba where Clay survives on a strict diet of vanilla Slim-Fast and shaved bonito. He plays percussion in a Sunday afternoon improvising collective. Julie Harrison, a talent scout for the Milwaukee Braves, also teaches Art & Technology in a military school. Her razor-wire constructions were recently exhibited at the landfill northeast of Havana. Ruby and Naomi attend the Murial Boat Lift pre-school. The affairs of granarybooks.com are now administered by Amber Phillips who has morphed the once glorious publishing enterprise into the musical label "Delete Records" where her first issue, a 7-inch single by Kitty Badass, won a Grammy.
Granary Books online can be found at http://www.granarybooks.com. As of this this posting, Clay and family, having been seized by the Havana Police Department, are awaiting deportation back to the United States to rejoin Granary. Carrying large U.S. and Cuban flags, tens of thousands of Cubans have taken to the streets of Havana to express their anger over the way the Clays were seized from their no-longer-secret location by the HPD last week.
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