John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel “A Confederacy of Dunces” was published in 1980 by LSU Press, and with the Aug. 15 release of Inman Majors’ “Penelope Lemon: Game On!” the press’s Yellow Shoe Fiction series continues the tradition of publishing books deemed too “idiosyncratic” for New York presses.
The series is currently presided over by editor Michael Griffith, who reads through around 100 manuscripts a year in search of the lucky two the press will publish. He worked at the Southern Review while attending graduate school at the University, and was invited to edit the then-new Yellow Shoe Fiction series after moving to Cincinnati.
“From the beginning, my idea and the press’ idea about the series was that we would go after things that fell through the cracks in New York, things that we thought were delightful in one way or another but that New York had deemed not blockbustery enough for them,” Griffith said.
There is no theme or unifying thread to the works published in the series besides all being works of fiction.
“I don’t want us to have a house style,” Griffith said. “I’m looking for excellence of whatever variety I can find,“ Griffith said.
Majors and “Visitations” author Lee Upton emphasized how collaborative the series and LSU Press are in their treatment of authors and the books they bring with them.
“It takes a lot of people to create a book, to edit, design, to bring it into the world, to publicize it,” Upton said. “So Michael Griffith and all the people working there at LSU who are part of the series — all of us who are readers and writers owe them a great debt.”
“Penelope Lemon: Game On!” is Majors’ fifth book, and his second to be published by a university press. He laid out a few of the differences between his past experiences, and the most recent with LSU Press.
“At a New York press, you get paid more,” Majors said. “You know they’re there for profit and it’s maybe a little easier to get national publicity, but they also have a lot more titles to turn out, a lot more authors to deal with. At LSU, you get that personal touch. You send an email to somebody in marketing or somebody in design and we hear back the same day.”
Upton had nothing but praise for the series and the people who work on it.
“I very much admired the work that had already been published by Yellow Shoe,” Upton said. “The terrific books, the production values that they bring to them. I’m so impressed with Michael Griffith, who is the editor. He’s a brilliant and daring fiction writer, so a chance to work with him was just such such a wonderful opportunity.”
Majors said his new release is a better book for having gone through Griffith and LSU Press, and Upton said Griffith is an editor who is devoted to the task.
“There was hardly a page of the entire book that the book manuscript that he didn’t have some idea — particularly about ways to tighten sentences and clarify elements in the manuscript,” Upton said. “I couldn’t have asked for an editor who is more discerning and so inspiring as an editor because he himself is a foremost fiction writer. “
Upton and Majors said they believe LSU Press gives a great service to the literary community with the series, which is made possible by the people who work there.
“I hope the LSU people know how special they are in the publishing industry, which is often so hurried and so cutthroat,” Majors said. “The people that I’ve worked with in the past have been nice, but no one had made quite the effort to make me feel at home and to solicit my opinion on things. They wanted me to like it. They wanted me to have a good time along the way.”