The interior pages of the book have now been approved for printing. What remain to be approved are only the jacket and the sample of the foil stamping on the cover. We are almost there!
What happens next? Well, the plant starts printing, of course. The plant can produce millions of books per month. But whenever I have visited Toppan Shenzhen, I have been astounded at how one book can take up so much space for a little while. The printed sheets come out of the machine and are stacked on pallets. Many pallets. Men and women–mostly women–in the light blue Toppan uniform drive forklifts around the factory, moving pallets. Sometimes they are just moved into the cavernous hallways in order to make room for other books. The same thing happens with the completed case stamping samples. They are stacked somewhere in uniform piles. Everything is coordinated. But it all seems a blur when you are there. When I have visited, and seen a book that Toppan Los Angeles was working on, it has always given me a thrill. I would love to see our book in the factory that I have worked with for so long, occupying pallets alongside other books, labeled with some Chinese characters that are a translation of the concept of “A Journey Through Literary America.” It would be something to see our printed sheets being driven around by a woman with a kerchief on her head, sitting “sidesaddle” on a forklift, completely oblivious (probably) about the subject of the book she is shuttling around.
Now that it has been given the green light for printing, our book will disappear beyond our reach for a while. When reading the latter half of William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways, I was reminded of the book’s current status in his description of the Snake River:
“A few miles south of the highway, the Snake River came out of five-thousand-foot-deep Hells Canyon, a place as inaccessible as any in the country. North of the road, the river, called by the voyageurs La Maudite Riviére Enragée, “The Accursed Mad River,” went back into a canyon two thousand miles deep and almost as inaccessible. It was as if the Snake, which travels such difficult terrain that explorers proved its true source only in 1970, crawled from underground to see sky before disappearing again.” (p. 244)
Our book will resurface long enough for us to check the printed sheets, and then disappear again until the book is completed. We cannot do much more to affect the outcome of the book now. It’s up to the skill and dedication of the Toppan Shenzhen pressmen and bindery. TRH