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Monday, November 17, 2003

Our Opinion

Getting It Together


A funny thing happened to greekworks.com on the way to this issue: we ran into a (logistical) brick wall. We have some good news, some bad news, and an explanation of both. First the good news: greekworks.com is back. The bad news is we’ll be gone again during the holidays. We’ll explain.

First of all, although it’s been a month and a half since our last issue, we have, in fact, been very busy. Why? Because of a number of developments that have led us to a critical point that will, in truth, determine the future of this experiment in bucking the system. Last month — October 15, to be precise — greekworks.com “celebrated” its second year of existence. It was a bittersweet anniversary (to say the least), as we knew at the time that we would have to delay publication of this issue. Simply put, our “collateral” ventures (like “collateral damage” in war) have turned out to be much more extensive, much sooner, than we had expected and therefore — to be perfectly honest about it — extremely disruptive of our very limited and innately precarious infrastructure. To use the Management 101 cliché: we grew too fast.

We are heartened by the fact, however, that, despite it all, we do believe that growth is good, and that, in any case, it is preferable to the classic Greek American cultural model of stagnation, conservatism, and an incredible fear to take on challenge and to challenge. In the event, since last spring, greekworks has been expanding its focus well beyond the confines of a biweekly electronic publication. Following the plan we had envisioned and outlined from the outset of greekwork’s creation, we inaugurated a modest, but quite rigorous and exacting, publishing program. On February 13, 2004 — six months to the day from the opening of the 2004 Athens Olympiad — greekworks will publish its first book: Wrestling with the Ancients: Modern Greek Identity and the Olympics. This work by Alexander Kitroeff — who, besides being one of the most highly regarded historians of modern Greece, is also one of greekworks.com’s most important contributors — is the first scholarly study of its kind in English.

Our publishing schedule will continue in the fall of next year with Speros Vryonis’s massive work on the “Septemvriana,” the infamous pogrom of September 6-7, 1955, that destroyed, more or less definitively, the millennia-old Greek community of Istanbul. The renowned American Byzantinist has been working on this study for more than a decade, and it is the only one of its depth and range to be published in any language on this controversial subject.

Finally, in June 2004, greekworks will publish its first work of fiction, Tom LeClair’s novel, Passing On. More than our other books, in a way, this short novel confirms greekwork’s intention to become a “full-spectrum” publisher. We will always have a fundamental focus on Greece and its diaspora, but we are also fully committed to contributing to the life of the American mind since most of us who are a part of greekworks live, work, think, and, above all, exercise our obligations and rights as citizens, in these United States.

Beyond publishing, however, we have another enormous project looming on the immediate horizon. Last year, greekworks initiated an extraordinary partnership with Crete University Press to realize a truly ambitious plan to construct and maintain an electronic archive for the press’s musical editions. The project’s development has been made possible through the exceptional generosity (and foresight) of the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, which has given greekworks a substantial grant to move ahead. In the context of Greek culture, this is a rare — arguably unprecedented — initiative and collaboration, although we genuinely hope that it will serve as a model for many others to follow.

Our common purpose for the archive is twofold: first, to create an interactive multimedia database of traditional Greek music that will be available to specialists, educators, and the general public; and, second, to promote and disseminate, to as wide an audience as possible, Crete University Press’s significant scholarly, artistic, and cultural work. Frankly, we also hope that this project will serve as the basis for an electronic library that will one day encompass much, if not all, of the music of the Balkans and the Mediterranean.

Last, but hardly least, greekworks has decided to proceed with a monthly printed version of our Website. Under the circumstances, this might strike the reader as the most risible — if not downright unhinged — idea of them all. Here we are, having suspended publication of our Website, and we’re planning to add a print edition? Are we crazy? Time will certainly tell. Nevertheless, we believe very strongly that, over the last couple of years, greekworks.com has proved that it has something to say, about Greece, about the United States, about Greek America, about the world at large. Consequently, we continue to seek new ways to expand our reach. So, greekworks.com THC (greekworks.com, “the hard copy”) will begin publishing on March 1, 2004.

Obviously, expanding so rapidly forced us to a critical point — and to a decision that we had to make: either “slow down” and “maintain focus” on our Website, and defer the other projects until more “propitious” moments, or damn the torpedoes…. We’ve decided that you can never time the future. You do what needs to be done — and you contend with the consequences of your decisions. We would be dishonest if we didn’t admit that we miscalculated. The extra load — so much more than we had originally anticipated a year ago — temporarily forced us to suspend greekworks.com (while still moving forward on our other projects, however). The hiatus of the last two months is the direct, and unfortunate, result of assuming too many new responsibilities.

So, we’ve bitten the bullet and decided to suspend publication one last time, until January 15, to finally resolve all outstanding issues. It goes without saying that our readers — especially our subscribers — deserve no less. We have already started working on a new structure that will allow us to resume publication without any more interruptions in the future, while also fulfilling all our new obligations. Meanwhile, we will publish two issues, on December 15 and January 1, which will reprise our best work of the previous two years.

During these last couple of years, greekworks.com has conscientiously tried to create a new reality in the intellectual life of Greek America and the Greek diaspora. We haven’t succeeded yet, but any unbiased observer would have to admit that we’ve made more than a few tentative steps. Despite many inconsistencies, some regression, and occasional dysfunction (such as at this moment), we are not only still here, but planning feverishly for the future. We never assumed it would be easy. What we’ve found to our concurrent delight and dismay is how much easier it’s been in many ways than we expected, and how much more difficult it’s been in other, thoroughly unforeseen, ways. Which is why — first, last, and above all else — we thank all of our subscribers for their tenacious support, encouragement, and abiding loyalty. ‘Nough said. See you all on January 15.

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