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Just in Time

I think Dalkey Archive Press inspiring an instant Internet meme by posting a job ad has to be my favorite publishing moment of 2012.

We went from this.

To this and this.

To this.

Rather quickly.

. . . adding, John O’Brien gets in a pretty good response: “I certainly have been called an ‘asshole’ before, but not as many times within a 24-hour period.”

Though, not buying the whole YOU DIDN’T GET MY SATIRE!!! attempt to explain this.

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10 comments to Just in Time

  • Josh

    They sound like total pricks and cunts! I love their books, by the way…

  • Censoring

    Don’t use the C word if you are trying to be funny esp. Not on some lit site. That is all.

  • Pat O'Donnell

    It’s a joke, right? I mean O’Brien is winding us up, right? Please say I’m right!

  • Paul Brocklebank

    Never mind John, imagine how Flann would react to this.

  • Taylor Davis-Van Atta

    Wow, this has gotten a lot of play for a job posting. And I’ve heard some pretty outlandish reactions to the ad, especially given that it is so similar to those previously posted on the Dalkey Archive website, including the one I responded to and was awarded several years ago.

    My experience with Dalkey Archive is of no relevance here, but I want to say that I don’t envy what O’Brien is going through now in seeking out his successor(s), and I speculate that the Press will either die with him or, if and only if the “right” person(s) arrives, Dalkey will drastically adapt to his absence and ultimately reinvent itself. But it is difficult to imagine an organism surviving as itself after a complete blood transfusion is performed. Whatever may come, it seems important to keep in mind, for whatever purpose, that O’Brien started an impossible venture in 1980 when he founded Review of Contemporary Fiction and, a few years later, began reprinting such (still) unacknowledged authors as Gilbert Sorrentino, Douglas Woolf, and Paul Metcalf, and made (t)his project endure, through whatever means necessary, over the last 30+ years. That O’Brien now seeks (perhaps impossible) employee(s) to sustain Dalkey Archive’s legacy seems to me completely in keeping with his ambition from the start. More to the point, it seems unreasonable (however unreasonable O’Brien’s demands of his would-be employees may seem to others) that those readers who have picked up and enjoyed Dalkey Archive’s books over the past three decades now bring a sense of moral outrage to the very enjoyment of their experience. The fact is that, though this recent job ad provides nice, convenient fodder for our lit/cultural worlds, O’Brien built Dalkey Archive from the basement-up to its current position, which, for a good number of us, is on-par with New Directions and the old Rosset-run Grove Press, and which laid the way for many of our most excellent young outfits. It’s utterly without sentiment or judgment when I observe that, when it’s all said and done, nobody has (or will have) sacrificed more than O’Brien. Is his latest posting an “unprofessional” outreach? Maybe, but only maybe. After all, how do we suspect other top companies across literary and other fields are currently being run? Dalkey Archive has always been a gig spun off by one man who has never aspired to anything but the very height of his own ambition. And, yes, O’Brien is a demanding employer, but he also produces an extraordinarily high product, and consistently so. The Press’s effort is undeniably to our greater public benefit, and the fact is that O’Brien has found an overabundance of talented, willing people to help keep the boat afloat over the years, and this latest job posting is probably only another step in that progression.

    Finally thought: If O’Brien is, in this job ad, talking about successors in English-language publishing, it should be considered that there is a reason why so many of his ex-employees are, by degrees, behind a number of the best houses and publications currently run in English, and why many of his other ex-employees are among our finest critics (Steven Moore, et al) and are among the strongest representatives of world literary culture in general.

    My guess is that this will all die down by tomorrow.

  • Birne

    In the past they used to call this kind of job position: SLAVE. I hope dearly that this meant to be a joke. Surely it must break some kind of law, please.

  • Joseph

    I think that the ad is great. It’s not as funny as O’Brien or others might think it is, but the ad is simply honest. It is very difficult to find good help these days, people that are not glued to a smartphone and that actually know how to read, and, to top it off, actually read and give a damn about literary art. So, I think the ad is effective and necessary as it cuts down on a lot of the follow up legwork that O’Brien would have to go through to find a halfway decent candidate. Those that apply to the ad are the right kind of people for the Dalkey Archive Press and that are truly going to further and benefit the press in the future.

    I appreciate Taylor’s insight and agree with it. (Taylor, you are a comma junkie btw.)

    Hubert Selby always said that “being an artist doesn’t take much, just everything you got.” The folks at Dalkey are (editorial) artists in the type of material they choose to publish. Art before ego. If that’s you, or the type of value you aspire to, then pay is irrelevant and just getting in the door at Dalkey is enough. The rest will work itself out.

  • SirJack

    Hey, this is what capitalists are supposed to do, right? Squeeze the very most you can out of your workers for the least amount of wages. This holds whether it’s an independent press or a global corporation.

  • Joseph

    SirJack, capitalists make profit. Dalkey doesn’t make anything on the books they sell, which is nothing new in the world of actual BOOKS. They’re a non-profit that only gets by because of large donations and grants. I recently bought 10 books from them through their 2012 holiday sale and inside the box was a letter asking for donations, in any amount, so that they could use it toward an endowment that might keep the press running for another 5-10 years, if that. Paid interns? It’s just not possible.

    Really, Dalkey’s a sinking ship (and one of the last). Sites like this which spread the word about good books, in addition to plugging the leaks in the hull, help get their name out there, thank God. Overall, I find the ad very honest and sad, and if I lived in Champaign, IL I’d be there in a heartbeat. Alas, all I can do is buy their books, one here, one there, probably like everyone else who frequents this site.

    It’s too bad O’Brien has to step down (he’s like 78, I think). Age is a bitch. The man has good taste.

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