She Works Hard for the Money

Work it, girl!!  You gotta love Carol Berge, the hardest working woman in the mimeo biz.  Like Tina Turner.    Here is a flyer that accompanied Center 11 in 1978.  For $100, Carol would "sleep in your house, sit by your fire, and sell my books."  A full set of Center 1-11 would only cost you an extra $75 on top of the fee to watch Carol sleep.  Just weeks ago you could watch Tilda Swinton sleep for free!  But Carol sleeps with such flair.  The $75 was a bargain because by 1986 full sets of  thirteen issues were $350.  And issue 4 was a facsimile!!!  Not even a set of true first printings.  Carol did not sell herself cheap.

In Center 11, Carol proudly announced the receipt of a $3500 grant to print that issue and the next one (she received a NEA/CCLM grant of "only" $850 for Center 10, down from her previous grant of $1500), but that did not prevent her from reminding her contributors that they were "expected to buy a copy of the magazine.  As suggested in new coda.  Any ms. received which gives evidence that writer has not read #11 will be returned posthaste without comment."  I guess contributor had to send Carol there $3.00 and a nicely typed book report.  WITH A CLEARLY ARTICULATED TOPIC SENTENCE!!!!  SSAE, of course.

So big deal, Carol wants contributors to buy the mag.  Well, Issue 10 had 125 contributors.  At $3 a head, that is a cool $375.  So she could buy herself a full set of her own mag and have $25 left over to pay her contributors, because Carol always paid her contributors.  I thought it was a generally accepted rule of the little magazine world that contributors got a free copy.  You know, a little something for the effort.  Big hitter the Lama.  Maybe not, but Carol's plan makes it look like she is running a pyramid scheme or something.  Gotta give her credit, she is always hustling.

Carol is the first to suggest that she is doing you a solid.  "If any CENTER contributor wants such a set, I will sell for $20, less if you are low on funds; you can always resell to a school or library in your area for $50 when you need money."  Rule number one of book collecting:  It is not an investment strategy.  Take that $350 investment for a run of Center in 1986.  That is about $750 in 2013.  That is a nice chunk of change for a run of a little magazine, especially considering that I just pulled together a complete set of Center, with the supplement of December 1983, for about $225.  So in 1986, you lost money investing in Carol.

I am clearly making fun of Berge and her magazine which is not really fair.  In fact, Center is a remarkable mag for printing purely fiction in a mimeo-type format.  Fiction usually gets the shaft in the mimeo world, but all this hustling surrounding Center seems to me to indicative of the weaknesses of the little magazine scene of the 1970s.  The committees, the organizations, and the grants made the little magazine a business.  (I know, it always was, my beloved Fuck You, a magazine of the arts is the ultimate example of that.  But correct me if I am wrong, but Sanders financed that business himself and even better he made it a truly successful underground multi-media organization.  I still like to think that the early mimeographers were purists.  Berman is Love is Art is God.  It is one of many lies that gets me through the day.)  A really unprofitable one, mind you, but like collecting cans for the returns, a business nonetheless.  And did all these committees and organizations really bring people together??  It seems like it created a lot of competition and an unofficial tax structure on little mag editors and contributors.  Besides Carol's cover required to pass the velvet rope of her mag, I would suspect that there were fees and dues for all these committees and organizations not to mention all the time, money and effort it takes to fill out all the forms and applications for these grants.  Pursuing grants is a full time job, believe me I live near Washington DC.  I think that the little magazine world took their eyes off the prize of publishing a little mag by going after all that low hanging fruit.  Maybe the Reagan Years did not destroy the little magazine at all as usually suggested but instead got rid of all but the true believers.  What does not kill you makes you stronger.



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