A backpedal by the National Endowment for the Arts has prompted fiery interest in a book authored by a Mexican revolutionary.

The Story of Colors, published in El Paso, Tex., by Cinco Puntos Press and based on a dispatch from Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos of Mexico's Zapatista Army of National Liberation, was set to receive $7500 from the NEA when a phone call by a New York Times reporter provoked chairman Bill Ivey to review the grant.

The NEA subsequently revoked the grant out of a fear that the funds would go to "inappropriate" sources. Cinco Puntos has maintained the money would be used for production costs.

"People have been calling us, doubling, tripling, quadrupling their orders," said Katherine Werner of Consortium, Cinco Puntos's distributor. As a result of the controversy, Cinco Puntos is considering increasing the 5000-copy print run.

Coincidentally, Cinco Puntos had moved the publication date from May to March 15 after the NEA yanked funding, as the house found itself needing revenue to repay printing debts. With all the media furor, that move has paid off.

Marcos routinely issues inspirational communiqués to his guerrillas. In a fable he dispatched in 1994, he retold the Mayan creation myth, specifically focusing on how the colors came to be. This book is that fable, accompanied by stylized illustrations by Domitila Dominguez.

As PW went to press, the Lannan Foundation said it would give the press $15,000 to help defray expenses.

Several groups fired off quick response. Jonathan Tasini, president of the National Writers Union, said, "Chairman [Bill] Ivey's cancellation is a threat to freedoms all Americans cherish -- freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and our democratic process of decision making." The AAP and ABA, in a joint letter to the NEA, wrote: "The news of your decision was a particularly unwelcome surprise, coming as it did only 24 hours after the NEA convened a symposium to discuss the future of literary publishing in America...."