In the age of distraction, one small publisher keeps local history alive in sepia tonesHistorians in the News
tags: books, publishing, local history
In a novel called “Requiem for a Nun,” William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” But William Faulkner is dead, and nobody reads “Requiem for a Nun.”
Which is just part of the problem.
In this age of rising mobility, giddy gentrification and shrinking attention spans, historical amnesia spreads like an epidemic: It may be asymptomatic for years, but eventually it’s fatal to our respect for bygone days. It would be nice, actually, if those who don’t remember the past were condemned to repeat it; in most cases, they’re just doomed to forget it.
Ironically, the Web, that infinite repository, may exacerbate our sense of alienation from the history all around us. Not only does the Internet lure us to distant places, but it also draws our eyes away from the storied sites and crumbling buildings we pass every day while tripping along the street staring at our phones.
For more than two decades, one small publisher far from New York has been quietly rescuing remnants of history from the flames of oblivion. You may have seen the trim, sepia-toned books from Arcadia Publishing or its imprint the History Press. From an office in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Arcadia releases almost 500 new titles a year. They’re available in bookstores, but you’re more likely to have noticed them in history museums, parks, diners, hardware stores and beauty parlors in small towns throughout America.
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