Denise Oswald’s Roller Derby Deal

By Jason Boog Comment

softskull.jpgIn her first official acquisition since she took over as editorial director of Soft Skull Press and senior editor of Counterpoint, Denise Oswald bought “Down & Derby” by Alex “Axles of Evil” Cohen and Jennifer “Kasey Bomber” Barbee. Publication is tentatively set for Spring 2010.

Ted Weinstein represented the authors in this “balls-to-the-wall celebration of the sport of roller derby–both it’s history and it’s recent resurgence” written by roller derby aficionados. Both authors have some writing chops as well–Cohen hosts and reports for NPR’s “Day by Day” and Barbee works and writes for the WGA.

GalleyCat caught up with Oswald to find out what she saw in this new book: “I’m a big fan of Roller Derby. I’ve been going to bouts for several years now and think it’s just absolutely incredible. There’s an amazing punk-feminist aesthetic at work there. The girls in the league were so clearly not Varsity All-Stars in High School, and they’re not the mainstream culture’s idea of what an athlete should look like–neither physically nor aesthetically (well, maybe with the exception of Dennis Rodman’s fashion sense),” she explained.

Oswald continued: “They bring an incredible athleticism to the sport that inspires a real devotion from the fans. I’ve been to Derby play-offs where the vibe in the stands was positively electric. It felt like I was watching game seven of the Stanley Cup Play-Offs in a Rangers/Islanders matchup.”

She also shared another project: “My first order of business was firming up some deals and relationships already in the works. One of those was to bring Alain Mabanckou’s next two books into the fold. He’s an incredible African writer. Serpent’s Tail publishes him in the UK and Soft Skull published his first novel, African Psycho, a few years back to much acclaim. He’s a very interesting author because he doesn’t write about Africa in the way we’ve come to expect. These aren’t books about civil war strife and the lives of child soldiers. They’re very funny, naughty, dark books with a decidedly un-P.C. slant.”