Pressing Matters


Professor of Philosophy David Appelbaum said he has always been impressed with the philosopher John Dewey’s idea that “the local is the universal.”

Appelbaum acknowledges this universal through his independent publishing company, Codhill Press, based right in the Hudson Valley. A largely regional press, the catalog includes the work of many New Paltz faculty members. Appelbaum said the content they print serves a distinct role in the intellectual life of the community.

Appelbaum founded the literary press in 1998 while working as an editor for Parabola Magazinewith hopes that it could supplement the small book program publishing works on myth, tradition and spiritualism. Despite that original plan failing, Appelbaum said he decided to continue with Codhill anyway, adding poetry to the catalog to realize a long-time dream of his own.

“Codhill is a small, largely literary press that presents original work of an artistic or spiritual nature for the purpose of exploring the great questions of human existence,” Appelbaum said. “It is independently minded, non-sectarian and affirmative of a belief that the mind has a special place in the universe.”

Laurence Carr, an English lecturer and editor at Codhill Press, said his professional relationship with Appelbaum began when the two struck up a friendship in 2006. Carr pitched an idea for a microfiction collection “The Wytheport Tales” — which would later be published through the press — and the rest is history.

Carr’s most recent novel, “Pancake Hollow Primer,” was also published through Codhill last year. The book follows the narrative of a Gulf War veteran on a spiritual and physical journey and is told through several different mediums including poetry, prose and flash-fiction.

The book recently recieved the “Best First Novel” award by the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Carr said. The award has garnered attention for the small publishing house, just as the catalog was picked up for distribution by SUNY Press, an international publishing house affiliated with the State University of New York.

Because Codhill is still primarily a one-man operation Appelbaum said, the responsibilities of arranging printing, posting orders and the upkeep of the business remain in his hands — along with the occasional student intern.

Though Appelbaum said the nature of independent publishing leaves the concerns of business and “staying in the black” looming forever overhead, Carr said he thinks the attention from the award and SUNY Press shows promise.

“With the advent of self-publishing and E-books, people say publishing is dead,” Carr said. “If everything is dead, then why are our shelves so stuffed with books?”

Carr said that Appelbaum’s talents for selecting meaningful and engaging content and ensuring the highest quality of work for the catalog clearly demonstrate his mastery as a publisher, reader and thinker — something he greatly admires.

“David is the force behind it all,” Carr said. “He is Codhill Press.”

These days, when the two get together to discuss and pitch potential ventures for Codhill, it’s typically over a cup of tea. A high-speed planet orbiting around Appelbaum’s even-tempered star, Carr said the two are contrasting yet kindred spirits.

Carr said the beauty of independent publishing is that the house can really labor over the pieces prior to release, striving for a complete and whole work without the threat of deadlines and bureaucratic tape.

Combined with the publishing house’s mission statement of delivering books geared toward the “serious seeker,” the Hudson Valley is just the right area for an independent publisher to flourish due to the variety of interesting people willing to congregate and share their artistic endeavors, Carr said.

“Everyone in the valley is hyphenated,” Carr said. “Think of the teacher-writer-poet. Everyone wears different hats. Some of that is [due to] economics, but mostly it’s the passion people have for their art and what other people are creating.”