The third inspiring example of literary craft discovered at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival is delivered by XOXOX Press, the four-year-old independent publisher in Gambier, Ohio. In the spirit of McSweeney’s (and maybe four-year-olds), the founder of XOXOX, Jerry Kelly, publishes what he likes with confidence that readers will concur. We just might.
Kelly explains the name of his small press is a nod to the collections of correspondence that form several of the titles on its list, which includes short fiction, novels, nonfiction, poetry, oral history, and a CD recording. Something about old letters—the guilty sense of invading people’s privacy?—hooks me the way reality television draws audiences. Kelly’s intuition is apparently heavy on logic or carefully attuned to human nature.
Visiting the XOXOX Press website is like walking into a tiny bookstore for a chat with the quirky salesclerk. The copywriting is first-rate—convincing evidence of affection for the product.
One of the site’s more experimental offerings (not counting the sound recording of an Ohio barnyard at dawn) is a free ebook, Trinity: A Haydn & Speaker Mystery by Reed Browning. By way of introduction, Kelly remarks:
We are eager to see how mystery readers respond to this first fiction from an outstanding nonfiction writer and award-winning teacher. As the mystery world is new to this writer and this press, we present this title online in the hope of finding an audience and making a judgment as to publication of future titles in the series.
I don’t expect to be alone among the offbeat onlookers hoping for this unconventional publisher’s success. Standing apart from the usual ostentation, XOXOX Press is what it is: “Bright, unique little books.” Impressive.