Small publisher to get big lift from `Lost'

A&e Today

September 25, 2005|By PATRICK T. REARDON | PATRICK T. REARDON,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Talk about a strange cultural pairing.

It would be difficult to think of a better example of mainstream American entertainment than the hit ABC show Lost. The mystery drama about plane crash survivors on a mysterious island, which had its season premiere this past week, is watched by millions of passionate fans.

By contrast, Illinois-based Dalkey Archive Press is famous in literary circles for publishing experimental and avant-garde books. The firm is lucky if it sells 90,000 books in a year.

Yet, the TV show may bring an unusual bounty this fall to the 21-year-old company, which has its headquarters on the Illinois State campus in Normal.

On Oct. 5, one of Dalkey's books - a 1999 reprint of the comic novel The Third Policeman by the late Irish writer Flann O'Brien - "will be prominently featured at a key moment" in the show's third episode, says Lost writer Craig Wright.

Normally, that wouldn't mean a lot. But Lost is decidedly not normal. It's filled with odd and unexpected plot twists that have sent fans scurrying for clues to the show's central mystery. Previous literary references on the show, to the 1972 novel Watership Down, for instance, caused aficonados to find and scour the book for meaning.

Wright and the other writers and producers on Lost are coy about the significance - or lack of significance - of such hints. But Wright says he's a fan of Dalkey and the work it does. And officials at the press are betting his use of the book on the show will reap them a windfall."It's going to be huge," says Chad Post, development director at the press.

Of course, "huge" at Dalkey isn't exactly earth-shaking. But in anticipation of the Lost appearance, the firm has ordered up a new batch of 10,000 copies.

Patrick Reardon writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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