Hello! I hope 2018 is going well. For you personally, I mean. Let’s not talk about the world. That would take up the whole newsletter and be written in green ink with CAPS LOCK ON and swearing. But still! There are also good things. There are children and dogs and snowdrops and soon there will be bluebells too, here in the UK. Also, there is art. We’re lucky enough to be bringing some mighty good examples of that into the world.
And so, this letter is mainly here to tell you more about Toby Litt’s Wrestliana and Alex Pheby’s Lucia - as well as let you know they're now available in the Galley Beggar online store.
First, a quick recap on our selling system for our new subscribers: As well as our very lovely and readily available paperback editions of our titles, we also print a special limited edition of each work. There are just 500 of these, and they are only available direct from our website. (Although, I should clarify: actually only 250 of each title are for online sale. The other 250 are already reserved for Galley Buddies, as well as some clever rare book dealers who know a good thing when they see it…)
Anyway: After that, that’s it. Once they’re gone, they’re gone… Or at least, hopefully, preserved lovingly by their proud owners for the long wrestle with time. The hope for these books is, always, that they will become valuable items. In the present tense, they also matter hugely to us and help us to invest in our writers. They’re an incredibly important boost to our bottom line (and keeping all those scary graphs out of the red). Which, in turn, allows us to produce more books and keep on trucking.
Anyway, that’s enough of the selling. Now for the good bit. The actual contents of the books.
WRESTLIANA, by Toby Litt
Last year, we successfully started a non-fiction list with Megan Dunn’s fantastic Tinderbox (Just a quick aside: thank you so much for the warm and enthusiastic correspondence about this book. It’s been joyful.) Our second title is Toby Litt’s Wrestliana – and we feel we’ve again got something special for you.
Instead of waxing lyrical about Toby’s past books myself, let me tell you what Muriel Spark said. (That’s right! Muriel Spark!) She called him an “absolutely fabulous writer”. She also said how versatile he is and that “he does something different every time.” Which sounds right. Because Wrestliana certainly is different.
Wrestliana is Toby’s memoir. In it, he also investigates the life of one of his ancestors, William Litt. William was a novelist, published poet, contemporary (but not exactly friend) of William Wordsworth… And a Cumbrian wrestling champion.
As well as telling the story of this extraordinary man, Toby uses William as a lens through which to take a look at modern-day gender, masculinity, what it’s like to be a writer, to be a father, to be a human being…. Wrestliana is a book about life, about dreams and broken dreams, struggling and succeeding sometimes, but not always.. It’s sad. It’s funny. It’s moving.
LUCIA, BY ALEX PHEBY
Long-time subscribers to this newsletter may remember a certain amount adjectival effusiveness about Alex Pheby’s previous book Playthings. I loved that novel so much I found it hard to explain what it was about without references to bombs going off inside your mind and the almost physical impact of reading it. Happily those enthusiastic words were widely echoed out in the real world and critical community… (Who – even if they didn’t go into quite such graphic detail about how the book was going to blow everyone’s goddam lid off – did, nevertheless, pretty much roundly proclaim it as a masterpiece. Damn. Right.)
Now, the temptation is to go into the same kind of raptures about Lucia. And then some more. Because if Playthings took a baseball bat to your head and then scalped you for good measure, Lucia is like being repeatedly thumped in the stomach while someone opens a hole in your skull, pours in dirty old diesel fuel, stirs it up with an ice-cream scoop, throws in a burning match and starts screaming: “HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR NEW BRAIN NOW, FUCKER, HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?”
But that doesn’t really do the book justice. Because while this novel is one of the most intense and vivid and physically wrenching things you will ever read, it is also one of the saddest and most delicate and most tender. It is beautiful as well as gut-shredding. And it is an act of sympathy more than anything else. Here’s a bit of our back-cover copy:
An attempt has been made to erase Lucia Joyce from the pages of history. We know she was the daughter of the famous writer. She was the lover of Samuel Beckett. She was a gifted dancer. From her late twenties she was treated for suspected schizophrenia – and repeatedly hospitalised. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum.
And, after her death, her voice was silenced. Her letters were burned. Correspondence concerning her disappeared from the Joyce archive. Her story has been shrouded in mystery, the tomb door slammed behind her.
Lucia evokes the things that may have been done to Lucia Joyce. It presents these stories in vivid and heart-breaking detail; it also questions what it means to recreate a life. It is not an attempt to speak for Lucia. It is an act of empathy and contrition that constantly questions what it means to speak for other people.
It is exceptional. It made me cry.
You have to get your hands on this novel. It matters to our common humanity.
Read the first chapter here and pre-order the limited edition here.
Okay! We better end there. But please do read and enjoy both of these authors. We’re very proud of them.
And – oh yes! Two last things. Talking of pride, we’re happy to say that two other Galley Beggar authors are fulfilling our dream to be citizens of the world over the next couple of weeks. They have two events coming up.
The first is Preti Taneja, who continues to conquer the globe with her mind-blowing We that are young, and will be appearing at the Jaipur Literary Festival on the 29 January. It’s a free event (all of Jaipur Festival is free to attend; how great is that?) and if you’re there, please head to Preti’s tent and give her a cheer. She’s doing amazingly well in India. She’s taken the literary world by storm. And that is another testament to just how careful she has been with every aspect of the book, the pains she took to get all the details working, and how vivid and real and right it all feels.
Second, on the 7 February Megan Dunn is going to be having a second Tinderbox launch party in her home city of Wellington, New Zealand. It’s at the City Gallery and all Wellngtonian bookworms should really make a beeline for the evening: Megan’s a terrific reader, and not to be missed. Go see her!
More soon - on the 5th February, when we'll be celebrating several more extremely talented writers and making our Short Story Prize shortlist announcement.
Until then, and fondly,