Maybe we’ve just got one too many trilogies on the brain, but the name of this Santa Monica–based art, criticism and poetry press (and the best-known role of its founder, Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen) suggests an urgent heroic quest. Still, of the dozen handsomely designed books Perceval has published since its 2002 founding (which include Weekly contributor Anne Fishbein’s Russian photographs, On the Way Home), fewer document epic journeys than whimsical career divagations: a planned trio of kids’ books by sociologist Mike Davis, a first book of paintings by poet Rene Ricard, a collection of urban photos by Dennis Hopper, a few avant-garde noise CDs, a book of horse photography from Mortensen himself. There may be a higher political purpose to Pirates, Bats and Dragons, Mike Davis’ tale of three kids who join a U.N. research mission to a magical land suffering under a war on terrorism, but its polymath publisher (who, besides battling for Middle-earth, is a poet, painter and experimental musician) denies any agenda but quality publishing.
“Perhaps the attention derived from the publication of Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation has given some people the mistaken impression that we concentrate on overtly ‘political’ or ‘progressive’ material,” Mortensen tells me via e-mail, referring to Perceval’s recent collection of anti-Iraq-invasion essays. Though Twilight’s contributors are all heroes of the progressive Round Table — anti-corporate activist and journalist Naomi Klein, historian Howard Zinn, and former diplomat and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson — Mortensen promises that Perceval “will remain open to publishing new and different material as well as points of view.”
(Article also discusses 13 other alternative publishers, including Bük, Santa Monica Press, TOKYOPOP, Equator Books, Red Hen Press, Gorsky Press and Green Integer.)