The archival material will be on display at Two Dollar Radio Headquarters on Saturday, Oct. 5, during an event that will also serve as a two-year-anniversary bash for the indie publisher's South Side brick and mortar space
The first time Two Dollar Radio had one of its books reviewed in the New York Times, Eric Obenauf, who co-founded the independent publisher alongside wife Eliza Jane Wood-Obenauf in 2005, had to put a customer on hold and hide behind a custard machine at Whit’s Frozen Custard in Granville, where he was working at the time, in order to take a celebratory call from the author. The experience repeated itself not long after, when Obenauf, against his better judgment, took a call from a Wall Street Journal reporter while working the Whit’s register, occasionally putting the writer on hold during the interview in order to serve customers as they filtered in.
These recollections were spurred, in part, by the recent announcement that the Two Dollar Radio archives will now be housed at Ohio State University’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Library (the digital archives will follow in 2020). Prior to being relocated, the items will be on display at Two Dollar Radio Headquarters on Saturday, Oct. 5, during an event that will double as a two-year anniversary celebration for the South Side brick and mortar location at 1124 Parsons Ave. Among the items on display are early Two Dollar Radio catalogs hand-sewn by Wood-Obenauf, typed and annotated author manuscripts, artwork from cover designs and correspondences with writers, including Joan Didion and Joy Williams.
“We have some amazing archival collections [in the Rare Books & Manuscripts Library], including the papers of writers such as Raymond Carver, Jessica Mitford [and] William S. Burroughs,” Jolie Braun, curator of modern literature and manuscripts, wrote in an email. “What we do not have much of, however, is publisher archives. This isn’t surprising, as publisher archives just don’t often make their way into special collections or archival repositories. Yet they can tell us so much; not just about the activities of the specific press they document, but about authorship, readership and publishing more broadly, as well.”Did you know? The most popular book in Two Dollar's history is Hanif Abdurraqib's essay collection, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, with 65,000 copies in print: Sign up for our daily newsletter
For Obenauf, the invitation to be included was flattering, though it also felt premature. “We’re still an ongoing project, and early or mid in our careers, so it was also kind of daunting to step back and apprise what has happened to this point while still working on the daily tasks of getting things done,” he said, adding that it does give the publishing house, which has long operated on a DIY, punk ethos, an air of legitimacy, at least in some circles.
This task of readying the donation included sorting through a dozen or so not-very-well-organized boxes stashed both in the rear storage space at Headquarters and in the couple’s South Side home, plus a couple of filing cabinets, in order to take stock of materials that might be suitable for the archives.
Combined, the publishing house’s looming 15-year anniversary, which arrives in 2020, and the archival donation, have allowed the couple to reflect on how their approach has evolved since forming in 2005.
“I think that when we were starting out in publishing we were really trying to stir the pot. … We didn’t have the money for a glossy catalog, and we’d go into these massive conventions and would be a couple tables over from Amazon or Random House with these really DIY, zine-style catalogs,” said Obenauf. “We were deliberately trying to fill what we thought of as this void in more experimental or esoteric literature.”
And while that urge still remains, a pair of events, including the couple’s daughter reaching an age where reading has taken on greater import and the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, have collectively caused a noticeable shift in Two Dollar’s vision, which has increasingly centered on both female writers and authors of color.
“We’ve been very deliberate in how we go about doing that, because a lot of times what is being submitted to us is not the most diverse work. There are a lot of white, male writers out there,” Obenauf said, and laughed. “We want to present a more diverse stable of authors than what we have in the past.”