Letter from China

letter from Seth Boyd - Publisher Charles Lane Press

Totally, totally weird here, as you predicted. The two guys, Ian and Fai, picked me up from the hotel in Hong Kong early this morning, and I was looking for some older dudes, but I think they're both younger than me! The ride into China was cool. We drove through Shenzhen and I got to experience firsthand what Peter Hessler wrote about in Country Driving. Nothing but factories, factories, factories for 50 miles, and attached to each factory are dormitories, dormitories, dormitories. All concrete; all gray.

At first I thought it was just extremely foggy, but the deeper we drove into China, the lower the visibility got. This is the worst pollution I have ever seen. All the articles and books we've read, all the 60 minutes and Frontline pieces we've watched are correct. The entire province is under a thick, heavy blanket of the nastiest, most foul smelling smog you'll ever see. And it's not just outside. It's in my hotel room, it's in the plant, it's in the conference room I'm sitting in right now, that
smoky, burning smell that we caught whiffs of in Indonesia.

Got settled into my hotel here, which is very Chinese. I mean tacky, Chinese with gold and brass and mismatched tiled surfaces
everywhere. A real hoot of a place. Right next to the hotel is one of those famous Chinese landfill type garbage heaps, so
that's a major draw right there. Trash everywhere, markets motorbikes, bicycles, chaotic traffic, but not as bad as Indonesia.

Got to the plant and was shown to my "Guest Room" which is more like a cell. There is terrible third world fluorescent lighting, no heat and it's freezing. I began to wonder when I was going to be allowed to see my lawyer. There is a couch and a large bookcase with other books, and there's a refrigerator. While I was arranging my things on the desk, they decided to bring in another refrigerator for me. And not just a little one. A regular-sized kitchen one. I do not know what they think I need to keep cold in this room that wouldn't get plenty cold if you just let it sitting out.

Then we went down to the press room to check the first form. It was my first glimpse of the plant. And to tell you the truth, if I hadn't had Sue's and Bob's stamp of approval on this place, I would have been worried. Everything is old and dirty. The equipment is like ancient. There are huge binding machines that do the cover stampings and they're like sets of giant jaws that open and close automatically. Every time they open, the guy quickly sticks his entire arm in the thing to position a new cover. And it just goes and goes like that. If the guy does not get his arm out before the jaws close, you bet your ass that arm will be flatter than paper in a second. I told Sue, "that does not look safe."

Looking around the place I thought this is not somewhere I'd even print a third grade spelling book let alone our beautiful Charles Lane Press books. But guess what? When I got to the press to look at the first form, it was stunning. It was a very close match to the proofs, except the form was better. The images are sharp and clean and smooth, the color is awesome and the images printed on this New-G paper are just luscious.

But anyway, we are in good hands here. Ian and Fai are totally professional. They are passionate about fine printing and they are very easy going, accessible and amenable to discussion and consultation. The press guys are great - they know their
shit - and the prints are looking absolutely beautiful, so we won't have compromised in any way on the quality. The dots in the press prints are smaller and sharper than the wet proofs they sent. So Shen's and Ian's books are looking as good as FRB and Outerland.