Not long ago, I attended an event held to raise awareness of English Pen and writers who are currently being held in prisons around the world. I had been asked to speak about a woman called Narges Mohammadi, a woman who was sent to jail for being a member of an organisation called “Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty” and for “committing propaganda against the state.” One of the main focusses of that propaganda campaign was to stop the state killing juvenile offenders. Kids, in other words. She wanted to protect children.
I could talk about this case for a long time, as well as the trials this woman has undergone in jail - but it’s probably more productive if you have a look for yourself at the web pages her supporters have set up for her - and also if you have a look on the English Pen website. If you like, you can also look at the talk I gave by clicking on this link. There you’ll also see several other videos, each one of them moving and important. I’d especially urge you to look at the talk by Steven Fowler, who asked the troubling question of what it is about these writers that makes them speak out? Why don't they stay at home, have an easy life, protect themselves and their families? Why can't they shrug off injustice and oppression like most other people tend to do? Could we really blame them if they opted instead for safety? Could we even blame them, instead, for being so bloody difficult?
There’s clearly something about some writers, isn’t there? They can’t shut up. They won’t shut up. If you’re doing something wrong, they’ll tell you - and if that rebounds on them, well, that’s the price of truth.
I realised when Steve was speaking that every single Galley Beggar writer would be in jail if faced with the right (actually, let’s call it ‘wrong’) kind of oppression. I felt a faint flicker of amusement at the thought of trying to encourage Preti Taneja and Alex Pheby and Lucy Ellmann to keep quiet and do as they are told, but mostly, I felt pride and horror. Pride, for obvious reasons. Horror because of the realisation that those writers who are in jail probably have a great deal in common with our friends here, who have given us so much through their books and their lives.
And I have to tell you that because you read this newsletter, and because you’ve read this far, you’re probably in the awkward club too. So, I salute you, comrade! But I guess that my saying that you might also find yourself on the wrong end of the long stick of an absurd law is really another way of saying that English Pen is a fine organisation and it deserves our support. They're looking out for people like us, after all. I joined up after speaking for Narges and it felt good.
We also have book news - good book news.
As I may have mentioned before, we’ve got some stonking titles on the way this year. Elly's prepared a nice little info sheet for bookstores about our forthcoming releases, which I’ll paste at the end of this newsletter so you can peruse it at leisure.
On the subject of release schedules, do also look at the amazing books some of our fellow independent publishers have got on the way in 2019. Elly compiled a big list with information from a lot of presses here.
I’m also delighted to announce that we've started the year with the wonderful news that Alex Pheby's Lucia has been longlisted for the brilliant and important and, frankly, faith-in-literature-renewing Republic of Consciousness Prize. Yay!
Not only that - January has also seen a lot of love for our beloved Francis Plug, with reviews in the TLS (“ memorable invention”) and Review 31 (“a refreshing rarity: a book that really will make you laugh”). How’s that?!
(Oh and I’m going to be one of the judges on the Edgehill Prize soon, alongside Tessa Hadley and Elizabeth Baines. It’s always nice when people mistake me for a respectable member of society. Please don’t let them know the truth about me!)
And that's enough for now - except to say, don’t let the bastards grind you down, and here are those exceptional 2019 releases:
Out on July 4 (limited editions available to pre-order - and disappearing fast!)
Brilliant, fiery, furious – and terrifically funny, Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport has already been making headlines as a book to watch in 2019. With good reason. It’s nearing 900 pages, it’s one sentence long… and it’s the Great American Novel we’ve all been waiting for. All of the USA is in it: right and wrong, better and worse – and with frequent detours into the wild insanity of Donald Trump’s Whitehouse… It’s also America seen through female eyes. The narrative plunges the reader inside the head of a stay-at-home mother who is struggling to pay her medical bills, communicate with her teenage daughter, put food on the table, keep her home safe. But this is no cosy domestic saga: as the Evening Standard says, “Reading Lucy Ellmann is like finding bits of broken glass in your lollipop.”
“[In July] look out for Ducks, Newburyport, a wildly ambitious and righteously angry portrait of contemporary America.” —Observer Fiction Picks, 2019
Out in August (with limited editions available to pre-order)
Meet Elliott. Elliott may well be a genius – and he’s also a boy who is unable to speak or walk and lives in a children’s home run by Catholic nuns in 1979. A beautiful, bittersweet meditation on the frailties and pleasures of language and communication, Patience is also a glorious celebration of childhood, friendship… and the sheer pleasure of wreaking havoc. With a plot revolving around a break-out attempt on the part of the children – think Samuel Beckett got drunk, decided to have a bit of fun, and wrote The Great Escape.
“Toby Litt has a wonderful streak of playfulness in him… his narratives wonder freely into unexpected forms.” —Wall Street Journal
“One of the most original and inventive writers around.”—The Daily Mirror
Out in December (limited editions available to pre-order)
With his first two Galley Beggar novels – 2015’s Wellcome Book Prize-shortlisted Playthings and 2018’s Lucia (an exploration of the life of Lucia Joyce, which, in the words of the Irish Times, “set(s) the standard… for fictional biography”) – Alex Pheby has established himself of one of the bravest, most eloquent and most challenging novelists working today. Mordew will only enhance that reputation, while also defying all genre expectations. Because Alex’s latest novel is the first in a new fantasy trilogy – set in a world where God is dead and the city of Mordew is held under the power of a Master who feeds off His corpse. A rollicking, disturbing adventure, for fans of Susanna Clarke and Mervyn Peake – to read Mordew is to walk through streets wherepeople are stitched from rags, where cannibal dogs freely roam, where half-formed creatures writhe in the gutters… and only a boy called Nathan Treeves can save the day.
“A writer possessed of unusual – indeed, extraordinary – powers.” —The Guardian
Here's an advert!
For our fantastic Galley Buddy scheme!
As a Galley Buddy you play an essential role in the future of a local, award-winning publisher. You also receive:
Limited edition ‘black-cover’ versions of each of our next 4 titles (these editions are printed in a one-time-only run of 500).
Your name included in an acknowledgements section at the back of four titles.
A 25% discount code for ongoing use in our online shop.
Free ebook versions of each of the four titles.
Invitations to launches and Galley Beggar events throughout the year.
Buddies will also offered advance proof copies of these four titles, just as soon as they become available, special updates, and the opportunity to read our books prior to publication.
More details here.
A Francis book bundle! We've made them especially for Christmas, in *luxury* black boxes no less, and they’re now in our shop. Not only do they contain Francis Plug Writer In Residence and Francis Plug How To Be a Public Author, but also the rare and highly collectible first book by our wonderful friend: London Pub Reviews. That’s right. Francis wrote a book before How To Be A Public Author. And it’s hilarious. And you can get it with his two other triumphs for just £20. The ideal gift. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas with Francis? (I know!)
Okay! At the end of this letter we’ve got a special alert - and please do hold out and read it. It’s very important to us, it’s all about next year, about how much we want to continue supporting and nurturing new talent - and how we need your help to do it.
More Francis, more love
But, before we get to that alert, and still on the subject of our lovely friend Francis, let’s have a look at how he’s been doing. Did you catch the wonderful Backlisted Podcast where he featured**? It was delightful to hear him praised with such generosity by the great Andy Miller. And also to be reminded how much people enjoy reading about Francis’ misadventures.
On that note, thank you so much to everyone who has written to let us know how much you've liked the book. Here are just a few of the kind words we've received in the last few weeks: ‘I loved the latest Mr Plug misadventures. So funny. (You feature quite a bit!)’; ‘I loved Francis - balm for our crazy times and especially wonderful as I work on a campus not too dissimilar…’; ‘What a great read!’; ‘Five stars from me.’ ‘Plug received, read - and LOVED!’; ‘I loved the book by the way. My days are spent persuading others to buy it.’; ‘Brilliant.’; ‘Francis Plug: undoubtedly my literary hero.’
He’s my hero too. And one of the great things about my job is that I get to correspond with him. The other day he wrote to tell me about an event he gave at the renowned Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace. He even sent a picture of his speech:
He said that he hand-wrote the speech directly into the book like this so that, when Paul Ewen read it to the audience on his behalf, holding his book up in the process, it would be, in his words, ‘like a really long TV advert for my book’.
Paul was reading it, by the way, because Francis said he found the ‘pedestrian crossing peeping noise on Westow Street unconducive to literary events’. Paul told me that Francis made the usual farfetched claims about everyone loving books ‘about buses that are actually whales and putrid stinking tyres’ and, I’m told, there was was a very surreal scene at the end, which went on for ages, about him wanting to build an arching grassed bridge over Westow Street, so as to avoid the peeping pedestrian crossing noise. ... But the arching part got mixed up with Jeffrey Archer, the arching arched villain.
Sounds like fun. And now you can share in it. Paul has assured me that Francis himself will be do a live web chat with us on 7th December 2018, 1-2pm. So: now is the chance to ask Francis the questions you've always wanted to - just email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to us at @galleybeggars. ... It’s going to be good! (And hopefully won’t result in us getting banned from Twitter.)
The Bookblast event I told you about last month in Norwich Waterstones was mighty fine. There’s an audio recording here. Should literary historians want to know Paul Stanbridge, Paul Ewen and Alex Pheby’s thoughts about modernism in 2018, they’ll have a field day with this one. I felt honoured to be sitting with them. (Catullus fans! The poem I reference is here. Modernism was also big in the first century BCE...)
Okay! Onwards to the new year. Or, almost onwards. Remember, this is going to be among your last chances to say that you bought Lucia in the year of publication. So. Go buy it! (Just as an extra inducement, look at this review that came out recently in The Herald. Sample quote: ‘It deals not just in emotional terms, but in what is really here, what we actually have to work with during our lives. Pheby achieves this not by stuffing the book full of things, but in doing quite the opposite: he takes a small number of carefully chosen objects—you might call them fetishes—and constructs a universe every bit as frightening as the real thing.’ Oh yes! But please click on that link and read the whole thing.)
So that’s 2018. It was a year, huh? But we've also got a lot to look forward to in 2019. Not least among them, these books:
Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann
This is one BIG book. It’s vast, it’s sprawling, it’s got all of America in in it. The whole world. And it’s all filtered through the anxious mind of an Ohio housewife and - my god. It’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking, it’s completely immersive. It’s 900 pages long and you're going to love every single one of those pages. Here’s what we had to say about it over at The Bookseller (‘an exquisitely accessible modernist masterpiece’, oh yes) - and here’s the blurb:
Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples”, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ’n’ beans?
A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder—and a revolution in the novel. It’s also very, very funny.
We'll be bringing Ducks, Newburyport out on July 4th next year - American Independence Day - and, alongside our two other 2019 titles, are opening up pre-orders for the limited edition. There are only 500 of these, almost half of these are already vouched for by subscribers and other people - and, honestly, you really will kick yourself, if you don’t get your hands on one of the special copies of this book. Because if I can tell you anything, it’s that this one’s a keeper.
Patience by Toby Litt
Toby Litt is back! And how. Patience is beautiful and lovely and tender and just... so thoroughly unlike anything else. It’s about a boy called Elliot, and it’s strange and sad and shot through with the sweetness and fun of childhood, and also the frustrations of a life confined. It’s like Samuel Beckett wrote The Great Escape - and its one of the most uplifting and poignant things I’ve ever read. It’s brave. It’s a lesson in empathy. It’s brilliant.
Here’s the blurb:
Elliott is something of a genius. He is hugely intelligent. He’s an incredible observer. He is able to memorize and categorise in astonishing detail. He has a beautiful and unusual imagination.
More than that, Elliott is an ideal friend. He is overflowing with compassion and warmth and fun. To know him is to adore him.
But few people do know Elliott, properly. Because Elliott is also stuck. He lives in a wheelchair in an orphanage. It’s 1979. Elliott is forced to spend his days in an empty corridor, either gazing out of the window at the birds in a tree or staring into a white wall – wherever the Catholic Sisters who run the ward have decided to park him.
So when Jim, blind and mute but also headstrong, arrives on the ward and begins to defy the Sisters’ restrictive rules, Elliott finally sees a chance for escape. Individually, the unloved, unvalued orphans will stay just where they are; together, they could achieve a magnificent freedom – if only for a few hours.
But how can Elliott, unable to move or speak clearly, communicate all this to Jim? How can he even get Jim to know he exists?
Patience is a remarkable story of love and friendship, courage and adventure – and finding joy in the most unlikely of settings. Elliott and Jim are going to have some fun.
We'll be bringing Patience in August and Toby has been kind enough to let us run an excerpt from his penultimate draft. You can read it here. (And, just like Ducks, Newburyport and Lucy Ellmann, you really should get your hands on a limited edition. Pre-order here.)
Mordew by Alex Pheby
Alex Pheby has written a fantasy novel. Yes he has. That’s pretty much all you need to know, isn’t it? Besides, it’s the end of the year and I’ve gone way past my annual adjective allowance. Let’s just say: OF COURSE IT’S INCREDIBLE. OH MY GOD. (And, oh yes. This is also the first book in a trilogy. So there'll be more to look forward to.)
That’s a place-holder cover. We’ll have a finished one soon. In the meantime, get a load of this blurb:
GOD LIES DEFEATED, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew.
On the surface, the streets of this the sea-battered city are slick with the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns – creatures that die and are swept down from the Merchant Quarter by the brooms of the workers and relentless rains, where they rot in the slums.
There, a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud - until one day his mother, desperate and starving, sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew.
The Master derives his power from feeding on the corpse of God. But Nathan, despite his fear and lowly station, has his own strength – and it is greater than the Master has ever known. Great enough to destroy everything the Master has built. If only Nathan can discover how to use it.
So it is that the Master begins to scheme against him - and Nathan has to fight his way through the betrayals, secrets, and vendettas of the city where God was murdered, and darkness reigns...
It’s out when darkness has covered the land and winter has us in its grip and we all need something mighty to cling to. (Probably November, in other words.) But if you want to whet your appetites on the first chapter head here, and do us, Alex, and yourself a favour by getting that pre-order in here.
See! There’s much to look forward to.
Here’s that alert we promised you
On the subject of next year, we’re looking to expand - a little. And we’re hoping to do it by getting more people enrolled on our Galley Buddy scheme. We’ve enjoyed remarkable success and good fortune in the six (almost seven!) years we’ve been going. We’ve launched fantastic writers, and seen them go on to find great success. We’ve been even more fortunate in that most of those writers have stuck with us and continued to write beautiful books. That’s left us with a small problem, however. A good problem, but still a problem. We’ve always intended to stay small, in order to minimise our risks. We’ve also always intended to launch new writers, as well as keep hold of the writers we love and admire so much. But we can’t quite do all these things at once... So we’re going to have to publish more books. And we need to sell more books direct, and bring on board more Buddies, to be able to do that. We have a target of £10,000 (800 books, or 200 lovely new subscribers), and we're really hoping that we can do it, with your help. It seems like a manageable target. But we do really need your help. Anyway: look out! That message is on its way. (Though if you want to get in early (please?!), please sign up or resubscribe here.)
Effin’ and Jeffin'
Okay, that’s enough from me. One last thought before we go. When Jeff Bezos was dating, he wanted to maximise the efficiency of the process. He went on a kind of hyper speed-dating mission. He called the process ‘woman flow’ and said he wanted to find someone capable of breaking him out of a ‘Third World prison’. I’m not making this stuff up. That’s what we’re up against.
October 2018: Words not written on water
I’m beginning this letter as the US Senate gathers for their cloture vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US supreme court. I’ll spare you my thoughts. Regular readers of this letter will probably already know that I’m not likely to feel good about a blotivating rage-filled sexpig and... Oh! I gave you my thoughts, didn’t I? Sorry about that. Here’s something better: Lucy Ellman’s thoughts. This article in the Baffler has some very fine advice - and makes Elly and me proud that we're going to publish her next novel in July 2019.
Anyway, it’s hard to imagine that the world will have changed for the better by the time I get to the end of this newsletter. But... hmm. I’ll try to provide some distraction from the hell out there - and maybe even a smidgen of hope for humankind as I go along...
Francis Plug is in the house
First up, here’s a scene to warm the heart:
Francis Plug: Writer In Residence is out in the world. It’s a wonderful thing. I’ve been very happy working on it with Paul and Elly for the past year or so. I know I sometimes give the impression in these letters that publishing is difficult and stressful - but it’s also joyful. Thanks to Francis Plug: Writer In Residence I’ve spent a lot of time giggling. And alongside the belly laughs, the novel bursts with insight and emotion and sadness. It’s made me feel alive, in short. It’s every bit as good as you’ll have been hoping for if you loved the first Francis adventure - and then some more. Paul has been inspiring.
Don’t take it from me, though. Take it from actual people out in the world.
In The Guardian, Nina Stibbe says the book is “Glorious… In Writer In Residence, Ewen has pulled off another outstandingly funny book.”
Nina’s review also recognises the depth of the book too, ending with: “Hints of [Francis's] loneliness and fragility add poignancy, and his gentle, persistent commentary on issues such as housing, poverty, library closures, terrorism, plastics, alcoholism and talent-show tears make him a character for our times, not just for the LOLs.”
And how about this for a pull quote:
“A Wetherspoons Wodehouse, a dole-queue Defoe… The saviour of comic fiction.”
Yes please! Those come from the mighty Benjamin Myers in The Spectator - and the whole review is a delight.
Jackie Law on Never Imitate has called the book " “a comedic triumph”, too. Thank you Jackie!
A good start, I’d say. Especially given that Writer In Residence was only published yesterday. Francis is doing well. He may not fit into the world very easily, but he is a gentle, determined and well-intentioned soul. He deserves this moment in the sun - as does his friend Paul Ewen. Now, we just need to sell lots of copies of the book for him to help him feel safe - and encourage him to write more. So please get hold of a limited edition or one of our lovely purple paperbacks.
(On that note we did the first BIG post run the day before yesterday. So if you’ve ordered already - thank you, and look out! The next batch of precious signed editions go out on Monday, so don’t panic if yours hasn’t yet arrived. It will!)
In the meantime, more reviews are scheduled – and we’ll be sure to shout them from the rooftops, both on Twitter and in next month’s newsletter. If you also want to shout from the rooftops, please do... Though if you see Francis on the rooftops, call the emergency services.
Books are my bag
Our author Preti Taneja continues to flourish. We're very happy to say that We that are young has just today been shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Breakthrough Author Award. This means a great deal to us and Preti. It’s proof of even more people loving this superb novel, and it’s a fantastic way to reach yet more readers. And it’s really quite moving. We’ve always believed in We that are young as a pioneering, honest, heart-breaking and damn-well-beautiful tour de force - but it would never have come as far as it has without the love and support of some passionate booksellers, reviewers, and a whole world of readers who have picked it up and run with it.
So from us, and from Preti: thank you.
When you pre-order our books, when you read them, when you review them, when you place them on your shop tabletops, when you sing their praises on social media, wax lyrical on Goodreads – it makes a difference. And this kind of thing is the proof. So as I keep saying, thank you.
One more thing. Books Are My Bag is a reader award - and at this stage, there's a vote. If you’ve already read Preti’s book, and you love it as much as we do, please consider going online and voting for her: https://www.nationalbooktokens.com/vote.
(Just to help, when you vote, you’re also automatically entered into a competition to win £100 of book tokens. Not bad.)
Talking of prizes, submissions for the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize closed at midnight on Sunday. There were almost 1000 entries this year (a record!); just under 100 of these were free low-earner submissions (70 from GBP, and the remainder from some very good people who donated entries). THANK YOU so much to everyone who has taken part. The process now begins where we’ll be downloading the entries, stripping any identifying names or contact details (it’s very important to us that, up until the long-list announcement, the stories are judged anonymously) – and then we’ll be drinking coffee, munching toast, and reading. From what we’ve seen so far, the quality is again wonderful, the range – from subject to form – tremendously diverse, and we’re in awe again of just how many amazing writers there are. The longlist will be announced at midday on 11 January 2019 – so stay tuned until then.
(... Forgive some more soppiness, but there was a moment on Sunday night, as the cascade of entries continued to come in, when we felt quite emotional. We know that each submission is an act of trust – that every single story has taken time and thought and care. Taken work. We hope we can honour that trust. And we’re really looking forward to crowning this year’s winners.)
I told you about the BookBlast Norwich event in the last newsletter - but the time is getting close and it’s worth repeating. Please come! It’s important that we can prove that literary events work outside the Great Wen - and it’s important to listen to our wonderful authors. So: We’re doing an event in Waterstones at 6pm on 11 October. That’s real soon. Alex Pheby will be there. Paul Stanbridge will be there. Paul Ewen will be there. Francis Plug might show up if he can get past security. And I'll be there too. The theme is despair, emptiness and futility. I won’t actually be talking. Instead, I intend to project Bela Tarr films from my eyes right onto the back your brain. (Actually we’ll be talking about Modernism, not-Modernism and, you know, writing.)
You can book tickets here.
There’s going to be wine too.
(The event is part of a big tour organised by BookBlast. There are some fantastic publishers involved, so even if you can’t get to Norwich, you might find something good near you... Have look at their website.)
Well, as I close Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is still undecided, but the senate has just voted to move things forward to a final vote. So things aren’t yet worse. But they’re getting there... There are a lot of bad things in limbo at the moment. But the struggle continues. We'll keep fighting. And I’m already looking forward to boycotting Theresa May’s Festival of Brexit:
One last thing! On the way back from Paul Ewen’s launch last night, my car got a puncture. In the car with me were Alex Pheby and Elly. Two avant-garde publishers and a literary genius. Imagine how bad at changing tires we were. Imagine our fear on the edge of the motorway. Imagine us looking at the time, looking at each other and realising we weren’t getting home any time soon. Then imagine a lorry driving past dropping cones - and stopping just in front of us. Imagine three guys getting out, coming over, clocking how hopeless we were, grinning and then changing the tire in a matter of minutes. It was like that scene in the film where the hopeless arty person meets a real functioning adult. I didn’t get their names. I didn’t get their numbers. They brushed off my thanks... But boy was I grateful. They were kind to us and wanted nothing in return. I thought I’d share the story, because I’m still in a daze. And because it makes me think that maybe things are never all bad.
HELLO! Once again, once again: news. Welcome. We’ve got a lot to share. So much of if that I’m not even going to extend this intro any further. Let’s just hit it:
Short time left for short stories
Submissions for our annual short story competition close at the end of the month. That’s frighteningly soon. So if you have a good story, have a friend who has a good story, or a student, or relative, or anyone, please send it to us. You can access full details here. Entrance costs just £10, there’s a serious cash prize, it’s a great way to introduce your writing to Elly and me (as well as the wider world), and it’s also a great way to help us keep on keeping on.
(And please, don’t think you can’t enter if you’re feeling the pinch. You may be able to get a free entry spot if you write to us. We made available 70 free entries to low earners at the start of the competition - and, thanks to the immense generosity of a number of individuals who have donated additional entries, this has been extended to almost 100. A few of these are still available, so if you want to enter but need a fee-waiver, don’t be shy. [And to anyone else feeling flush and generous: Over the past few months we’ve received some pretty gut-wrenching letters from people who are finding that £10 hard to find. It’s shocking to realise how many people with talent are cut off from most competitions and we’re very keen to enable as many people as possible can enter... There’s a limit to what we can do ourselves, which is why we needed to stop at 70, but if anyone reading this wants to do a potentially life-changing favour for a fellow human-being, please do consider donating. Just follow this link and hit the big black button. Thank you.])
Norwich people! And also people who like to hear from very talented writers and are prepared to travel to Norwich! We’re doing an event at Waterstones at 6pm on 11 October. Alex Pheby will be there. Paul Stanbridge will be there. Paul Ewen will be there. Francis Plug might show up if he can get past security. And I’ll be there too.
We’ll be talking about modernism and experimentation, we’ll be reading from books, we’ll be drinking wine, we’ll be having fun - all the more so if you come along and help fill up the room.
(The event is part of a big tour organised by BookBlast. There are some fantastic publishers involved, so even if you can’t get to Norwich, you might find something good near you. … Have a look at their website.)
Talking of Francis Plug… LOOK OUT!
In just a few short weeks, Francis will make his triumphant return. I shan’t say too much at this stage as I’m planning to go BIG in the next newsletter. But I can tell you that working on this book has been a joy. Francis. Oh Francis. I wish you hadn’t done a pee where you did do a pee, but I still love you. Limited editions are available for pre-order here. They will be signed and winging their way to lucky people soon. Snap them up! (The lovely purple paperback will be in the store on release.)
That was the headline when the Times Literary Supplement recently reviewed Toby Litt’s Wrestliana. Equally pleasing, their eloquent reviewer Houman Barekat said: “The overriding register of this charming and soulful book is one of sanguine generosity.” Isn’t that lovely? I feel that way too. The whole review is full of insight and well worth a read. As is the book. Of course. We have some limited editions - and lovely green paperbacks - in the store. And it’s Friday, so give yourself a treat.
Oh yes! The excellent headlines keep on coming! And didn’t I tell you about Lucia?! This review in The Dublin Review Of Books is a good one. Obviously, I’m going to think that, since the reviewer likes the book and Alex’s writing almost as much as Elly and I do. But still, read it for yourself. The reviewer really understands where Alex is coming from... and... holy hell! He's a train! You’re on the tracks! Oh no! He’s going damn fast. Steam and sparks blasting into the night sky. Noise and speed. Wheels blurring. Twenty tons of heat and fury are about smash into your face...
“Skillfully rich... a careful observation of the mind’s unravelling... [Playthings]’s hybrid position between the historical and the fictional makes it all the more potent.” Oh yes. We have copies here.
Talking of the USA, Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young has also just blasted off in the land that used to be free. Here’s what they say in the Boston Globe:
“It’s a marvel that she was able to pack in so much (plot, atmosphere, social observation, you name it) while sustaining such propulsive energy over the course of nearly 500 pages, and yet she manages to the last. The overall effect is dizzying, dazzling, and ultimately convincing and immersive.”
“Taneja writes vivid, atmospheric scenes in tight, clean prose with exquisite observational detail that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.”
We don’t have limited editions left, I’m afraid, except for the ones we’re keeping for our pension. (When they’re gone, they’re gone - so, you know, make sure you snap up the other limited edition titles in our store.) But we do have our famous and beautiful orange covers here.
We’re launching Francis Plug in London on 4 October. Venue TBC. But keep the date clear. You’ll be very welcome - and all you need to do is drop us a line if you’d like to come (not least so we can email you the location).
I know it's traditional to end these letters by complaining about Jeff Bezos and Amazon (and they sure haven’t been getting better recently), but today I’m going to try to be positive. Over on The Guardian I’ve been having a thoroughly wonderful time reading Chaucer. That’s a 600-year-old book that still hits home, can still make you coo in admiration, make you laugh in sympathy - and still feels as fresh as Zephyrus’ swete breeth. Writers are fantastic, aren’t they? It’s an honour to promote their work - and we couldn’t do it without your support. So thank you. Together, we’re doing something that might just last.
A few adverts below the goodbye where you're free to either enjoy or ignore them.
Our Galley Buddies subscription scheme offers limited editions of our books, as well as other goodies (invitations to launches and events, discounts, and other things). The scheme is really important to us. It means that our writers always have a certain number of readers (the most important thing a writer can have). It means that we get to know some of you better. And, of course, it offers us some much-needed financial padding – without which, there are times when we simply wouldn’t have got by.
We always want more Buddies. We're also very happy to arrange subscription as a gift if you're thinking of Christmas early, want to give someone a very special birthday present, or just let someone know you love them and respect them enough to give them some fine, fine writing.
THE 10 WORST OF EVERYTHING
I done wrote a book!
It’s on the way in the middle of October. I’d be very pleased if you bought it. I hope it will make you laugh. It’s also full of fascinating information. Ridiculous nonsense about vegetables. And highly contentious ideas about The Beatles. If it sells enough copies, it will also help us publish A BIT more here at Galley Beggar with a bit less fear.... It will be available from all good book stores and also... Amazon.
Nothing like a drought to reinforce the impression that we're living in End Times. But hey. It's also fun going to the beach. And at least we're going down fighting. Here's Norwich's contribution to the battle against the Trump/Brexit conspiracy of evil morons last week:
Our writers have also been battling for respect, decency, art - and hell, for living in a world where we can accept that there might not always be simplistic answers to difficult questions, where we can allow for nuance and dissent and complications and where truth and beauty might not be all ye need know, but they still matter for something. None more so than Alex Pheby, whose new novel Lucia is not only a god damn masterpiece it's also a broadside against oppressors and suppressors. I've been talking about this book for a long time now, so I guess you must know how I feel. Happily, you can now take it from other people too.
We’ve already shared David Collard's magisterial TLS review. But I can't help doing so again. (Brief highlights: “intensely moving… delicately luminous… [Lucia is] an ambitious and daring investigation of selfhood, mental disorder, medical callousness and misogyny”. But please read it all. It taught me new things about the book.)
And Alex and Lucia are continuing to gather tremendous notices.
Here’s Sean Hewitt, for example, in the Irish Times:
“With publication set to coincide with Bloomsday today, Alex Pheby's Lucia treats Lucia with an unusual degree of empathy and critical nuance. ... Emotionally powerful, constantly questioning… [Pheby sets the] standard for intellectually uncompromising fictional biography.”
And Ian Sansom, in this weekend’s Guardian:
“Pheby is a writer possessed of unusual – indeed, extraordinary – powers. ... Read [Lucia] with your eyes wide open.”
Lovely. Again, please read those reviews. It isn't just that they're favourable, it's that the writers have taken serious effort to engage with the book and understand it. The same is true of this perhaps slightly more equivocal notice in Review 31 from Genevieve Sartor. Sartor acknowledges Alex's skill, but has some questions about his intentions... In my thoroughly biased opinion the novel answers those questions - or at least raises them itself, along with hundreds of others. But it's also clear that Lucia has been difficult for some readers. It's a book that matters - and it's correspondingly challenging.
When Alex read at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin a few days ago, there was a walk out (our first!). We've also had a bit of online antagonism, and a few spiky emails informing us that “members of the public” aren’t equipped to write – or indeed, read and understand (yep, that’s you, reader) – a book about the Joyces.
Anyway. What do we think of all this? Well, to a certain degree we’ve been expecting it. The Joyce Estate and some [by no means all] associated academics have long had an interesting reputation.
Aside from that, Lucia is – Elly and I are convinced – an incredibly important book. But it’s not a comfortable one. Which is just how Franz Kafka for one would want want things:
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If a book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So it will make us happy, as you write? Good lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books… We need books that will affect us like a disaster, that will grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves… A book must be like an axe to the frozen seas within us.”
So. Take it from Franz. Take an axe to that frozen sea – and injustice. And also, revel in prose hotter than the centre of a supernova… I'm asking you to buy Lucia, in other words. And read it. You’ll be saying no to safely, no to literary armbands, and yes to a world where writers are free to take the kind of risks that might change things. (Fuck Up-Lit, in other words.) Please head here. We still have signed limited editions in the store – and the more people who read this extraordinary novel, the happier we are.
Meanwhile, the equally fearless Toby Litt has plunged right into the ongoing international conversation about masculinity – among other things – in Wrestliana. And he too is getting the kind of notices that make publishing feel entirely worth it.
We’ve already shared Chris Power’s review in the New Statesman, but we can’t resist the temptation of posting just a little again:
“A disarmingly honest and at times extremely powerful work of memoir… It is the particular quality of his examination that makes it so compelling: its plain-spokenness.”
Yes, we’re very pleased. We're also pleased that Toby has just been crowned BookBlast’s Book-of-the-Week, with a careful and in-depth review that called Wrestliana:
“… like an experimental mosaic, [that] flies in the face of more conventional, streamlined narratives. I loved this book, and the writing. Toby Litt delights in and plays with language. … In Wrestliana he tells new truths about manhood, society and the literary world in a way that has not been done before. Read it and savour it for yourself.”
You should, too. And you can get a copy by heading here.
There’s a also fantastic and very candid interview with Toby here. And if you like to listen to your writers, as well as read them, then you can catch Toby here and Alex here.
(And oh! As I type this, I've just been told Toby is a summer pick in the Big Issue too. Yay!)
Okay! More announcements. The first one is a big one:
Calling all writers! And friends of writers! And people who wonder if they are writers, and want to have a go at finding out: The Short Story Prize 2018/19 is now open to submissions. We’ll leave off going on too much here, but suffice to say, we really love our prize. The judging every year is tremendous fun, the range and quality of submissions is awe-inspiring – and we come out of it feeling not just refreshed, but inspired by the sheer amount of talent out there, and the miraculous ways that stories can take shape. You can find full details on our web site, read the finalists from previous years, and learn more about our excellent judges (Aki Schilz, Jonathan Gibbs, and Philip Langeskov… I know. How lucky are we???). (There are also still a small number of low-entry free entries, so do contact us if you’d like to submit and need one.) Full details here.
SUBSCRIBERS - PLEASE MORE SUBSCRIBERS!
The second thing is that we’re launching – well, trying to push as much as we can – a new subscriber drive. Many of you will know about this, but, like many small presses, we have a subscription scheme – Galley Buddies – which offers subscribers limited editions of our books, as well as other goodies (invitations to launches and events, discounts, and other things). The scheme is really important to us. It means that our writers always have a certain number of readers (the most important thing a writer can have). It means that we get to know some of you better. And, of course, it offers us some much-needed financial padding – without which, there are times when we simply wouldn’t have got by.
At the moment, we have 124 Buddies. Which is amazing. (What’s also amazing is that a high percentage of those Buddies have been on board with us for years – and feel like much valued, and loved, friends.) If we can build on that – and we have a goal of 250 – then we'll be all the more able to keep on taking risks, keep on taking on talent, keep on printing books and keep on sticking It To The Man. We don't want to take over the world. But we do want to change it. And we need your help to do so.
Okay, onwards! There's lots more to look forward to. Preti Taneja and Alex Pheby will soon be coming out in America. Here's what Kirkus Reviews says about We that are young and Playthings in anticipation. I'm going to be bursting with pride watching them plugging into the best bits of the US. And no doubt taking on the worst. We in Britain and the USA have a lot of problems at the moment. But we still have our writers. And they're still the best of us. And they will be remembered for a long time to come. Hopefully longer than all the troubles.
But! Talking of troubles. Yesterday was - it was impossible to avoid it - Amazon Prime Day. This is a special kind of Hallmark holiday, like Father's day on teeth smashing steroids, only without the bit about being nice to your family. Where the only thing we were supposed to be celebrating was, erm, Amazon. My twitter feed was infected with confected bullshit from Jeff Bezos' Comically Evil Corps urging me to celebrate the Worst Store Ever. (Which, incidentally, has just had itself declared not legally a store, in spite of calling itself the Everything Store for - like - decades, so it can avoid accepting responsibility for the dangerous crap that now takes up most of its marketplace.) Even The New York Times got in on the act with the fake news articles about Prime Day. We are truly living in the Upside Down. But we do have options. One of which is to say, fuck that shit. Unfollow anyone tweeting their nonsense propaganda. Support unions, support companies who pay taxes, and so support a flourishing, diverse publishing industry. Demand an end to zero hours contracts. Smash up the Alexa spyware gathering personal data about you and your home. If your friends have an Alexa, smash that too. It'll be fun. There might be short term awkwardness. But they'll thank you when the data farming scandal relating to those bastard devices breaks. It's going to be bigger than the Facebook mess. And given what a shitfarm that place has turned out to be, that's pretty big... Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! Up yours Bezos.
PS Apologies to Andrew McDonnell. In my excitement and joy at Preti Taneja's Desmond Elliott triumph in our previous newsletter I typo-ed him as Andrew McDonnald.
PPS Talking of the awe-inspiring Preti Taneja, here's a typically fantastic interview with her. Look out America!
PPPS People who enjoy reading the extended bits where I can't quite bring myself to end the newsletter will know that a while ago I predicted a new Cure album. If you liked the sound of that, for all sorts of reasons, you'll enjoy this wonderful interview with Robert Smith from Dorian Lynskey.
Thanks for reading this letter. Hell, thanks for opening it. If you've been battling as many messages about GDPR as I have, I'm guessing you're currently looking forward to clicking on emails as eagerly as Vercingetorix anticipated appearing in Caesar's great triumph of 46BCE.
But hey! Where else are you going to get your ludicrously extended classical metaphors if not in an email from a smarty-pants independent publisher?
Anyway: GDPR. My current understanding is that you have to give your consent to continue receiving the kind of hot stuff I'm sending you now. So either scroll to the bottom of this message and clicky on the linky, or reply to this newsletter with some variation of "hell yes" in the subject line and we'll keep sending them. Otherwise, alas, I'll just be left screaming into the void again.
Wrestliana part one
But look! Alongside my nonsense, these emails contain the good news. It was fantastic, for instance, that a few readers accepted the invitation from a previous letter and came along to celebrate the launch of Toby Litt's Wrestliana with us on 9 May. Here's the crowd:
That Fitzrovia Chapel was some venue. It was also an excellent event. Toby gave a fantastic reading and a live demonstration of a nutmeg. We celebrated his superb book, sold some copies, felt proud. And, as I say, quite a few readers of this newsletter showed up, so a special thanks to them. (And if you’re reading this and wondering if you could come to our next event, please do. You’re just as welcome. Invitations - to both our Short Story Prize Prize and the launch of Lucia - will start making the rounds over the next week or so.)
Tell your brain to damn well get ready because Lucia is about to explode inside it like the start of the universe
Our next release will be Alex Pheby’s Lucia on the 14th June, just in time for Bloomsday.
Elly put together a few bits of feedback we've been getting as the book goes out to press:
Lucia's going to be reviewed in over fifteen publications so far - yes, we feel pride and also terror - and Alex will also be on none other than BBC Radio 4's Front Row, as well as flying out to University College Dublin to give a talk at the start of July. More details to come... In the meantime, I'd suggest buying more than one copy of the limited edition. You'll need one to read, one to press on your friends, one to keep for posterity - and three to annoy everyone else who hasn't got one about all the money you'll be making when they're worth a FORTUNE.
Wrestliana part two
The first reviews of Wrestliana are also starting to come in and it looks like lots of readers are going to love it as much as we do.
On the Guardian podcast the book has been described as "... the perfect lens through which to study modern masculinity." (Have a listen to the whole thing - it's great. Toby talks really well about writing, failure, life, the works - and gives a fine reading.)
Over on Storgy, Matthew Brandenburg says: “Wrestliana is a fascinating trip down one man’s family history.”
Enrico Cioni has given it a really thoughtful review on his excellent blog Strange Bookfellows, saying: "I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered pages that better capture the curious mixture of meaningfulness and meaninglessness that comes with sharing the same genes as someone you’ve never met."
More soon! Including reviews in the Spectator, The New Statesman, and the TLS. Go Toby! While we're waiting, I'm also very pleased to say Toby will be in Cumbria. He'll be talking at Bookends in Carlisle on Thursday 7th June, at 7:30pm.
He'll also be in Grasmere the following day. And there's going to be a Google hangouts video call from that. (Have a look on Toby's (very excellent) blog for more details soon).
Right! A plea!
One of the best things we have going on here at Galley Beggar Press is our subscription scheme. We hope it's a really good deal. You get limited edition books first (usually signed), and cheaper than everyone else. You get special invites and offers for things we're doing. And, I hope, you get to feel like a part of the family (we like to try to make things as personal as we can, with separate letters, messages and updates) - and as well as all that you're furthering the cause of art and literature and free expression. Galley Buddies make all the difference to our ability to keep on trucking, to enable our writers to write just as they like - and to take risks on books we love and think are important. The only thing wrong with our subscription scheme is that we aren't quite good enough at pushing it and signing up new people. We've got a lot of exciting things coming up, several of our existing books are doing so well they're about to go to reprint - and it feels like a great time here at GBP. But we'd love to share it with more people - and getting our subscriber base up to 200 or so (we are currently on 120 much-loved Buddies) would go an awfully long way to keeping us stable. ... So if you've been thinking about becoming a subscriber, now would be a wonderful time. (And if you are a Buddy and it's working for you, please tell someone else.) More details here. Thank you!
Tinderbox! On fire!
Meanwhile! Megan Dunn continues to go from strength to strength. Here's a fine write-up of her appearance at the Auckland Writers Festival. ‘I bring the humour, but I bring the pain too,’ says Megan. That's why we love her. Tinderbox has been quietly, steadily, getting to more and more readers. We're going to have another print run soon - and in the meantime, we're selling the limited edition at a special cut price of £9 to help pay for the next batch. This is very much a bargain.
Biles! Taneja! Elle! Marie Claire!
Look at this:
That's Adam Biles in French Elle: "When Adam Biles describes old age, his hand does not tremble.” Adam is kicking all kinds of butt all over again - and he's doing it in French which makes it seem even cooler. Elly tells me that, incredibly, we've still got some limited edition copies of Feeding Time to sell. If you haven't read it, then well: you know my opinion. Here it is.
And look at this:
That's Preti Taneja in Marie Claire. Samira Ahmed says We that are young is “magnificent.” Yes, it is!
On the subject of Preti, I went to see a performance of her first novella Kumkum Malhotra in Norwich the other week during the Norwich Festival. This was quite an experience. It was not only sold out, there were people queuing to get in. And seeing an audience entranced by Preti's words was really something...
If you get me in my cups some time, I'll tell you the story of how someone came round to our little house one evening carrying a printed chapter of We that are young, a copy of Kumkum Malhotra - and how that moment has sent ripples around the world... Even as I type this, it occurs to me that we might have been out! Lucky for us we weren't... Also lucky for everyone else that's had the experience of reading We that are young.
(Preti is also currently shortlisted for one of the UK's - one of the world's - most prestigious awards for debuts: The Desmond Elliott Prize, which called We that are young "revelatory". The announcement is on 20th June - so please send some love to Preti then, and join us in keeping your fingers firmly crossed for her.)
Greenwich Book Festival
I can't believe I'm still typing and haven't yet got to this very important thing. One day I'll send a short and non-rambling newsletter. But clearly not today. Okay. Here goes. Please come and see us and some fine writers from Influx Press, Dead Ink, Little Island Press and more at the Greenwich Book Festival on Saturday June 16th.
At 11:00 am, the incomparable Eley Williams, unequalled David Hayden and superlative Clare Fisher will be talking about short stories.
At 12:30 we’re keeping it real with the outstanding Matthew De Abaitua, phenomenal Shiromi Pinto and magnificent Alex Pheby talking about writing about actual people.
At 3pm, OMG It’s a smackdown! The glorious Toby Litt and wonderful Carrie Dunn are going to be talking about wrestling, writing and wrestling with writing about wrestling.
And then, at 17:30 in association with the world-shaking @DeadInkBooksand their ground-breaking Know Your Place anthology, the superlative Abondance Matanda, Yvonne Singh, Shiromi Pinto and Matthew De Abaiatua are going to tell us why Class Matters.
Follow those links to get tickets - all very reasonable. There's also lots more going on at the festival. And I think Francis Plug may be there... Children are welcome. As are adults. So bring your whole crew.
Wasting time well
Okay! you’ve got all the way to the end of this letter instead of doing day-to-day grindy stuff. So why not spend some more time reading? Here's an article by Gonzalo Garcia saying wasting time is not a waste of time (if you work at it).
Boring but important bollocks about GDPR
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Here's that button I told you about, all those words ago, at the start of the letter:
Finally, this letter limps to a conclusion. Its author, tired and emotional, thinks about evil things...
Ye gods, the font has changed and I don't know why. Forgive me. Also: Go on. Hit that button. Imagine me typing a letter as crazy-long as this one and no one reading it. While you're imagining, close your eyes a while. Think about the night. Think about rats scrabbling under the rotting decking in thousands of suburban back-gardens. Think about their yellow chewing teeth chewing through your floorboards, your important wires, your sewerage pipes. Think of the uric smell of rats. Think of the smell of rats and broken poo pipes. Think of thousands of rat babies. All weird and pink and toothy and growing hairs. Now you've got the perfect internal metaphor for Amazon's algorithms, and they're crawling all over your data, they're in your computers and they're inside your head... They're destroying your everything. And the scandal about the data Alexa is gathering on all those suckers who've installed Bezos' home spy-ware is going to be even worse than anything relating to Facebook, surely, and through it all, Jeff Bezos will laugh and laugh and laugh. Then, once he's reduced us all to rat-picked bones, escape to space. What a bastard. Fondly, Sam
It’s been a while since we’ve sent a letter. So: brace, brace, brace! We’ve got a whole lot of news to get through.
It feels a bit like Galley Beggar has been in temporary hibernation. But! We (and when I say ‘we’, I mainly mean ‘Elly’) have been working hard behind the scenes, getting our next books ready for publication. It’s been a great and fertile time and our writers have achieved special things. But I suppose we haven’t done that much out in public since the end of our short story competition. (As long as you don't include Elly’s epic Twitter threads about the iniquities of the discounts and returns system in publishing, anyway).
But it’s okay that we haven’t been out of Norwich all that much, because our wonderful authors have been passing the flame all around the world.
As well as getting tremendous reader appreciation over here in the UK, Megan Dunn’s Tinderbox has been storming New Zealand.
Here’s a quick sample of the kind of notices she’s been getting:
Tinderbox is a ‘witty, highly entertaining essay’ according to Stuff.NZ
It's a ‘flaming good read’ according to Alyson Baker.
The Spin Off made it a book of the week and called it ‘dry and pessimistic, and totally compulsive reading’.
Harry Ricketts praised it to the sky on New Zealand radio.
And back here in the UK Book Blast gave it a lovely review too.
Meanwhile, I can’t tell you what a blast it was to be in India with Preti Taneja in January. She was wonderful at the Jaipur Literary Festival - and it was unspeakably exciting to see the Indian edition of We that are young in Delhi bookshops.
And then, there are the reviews she’s been getting. If I start listing them all it will take all day, so I’m just going to highlight the most recent that I’ve seen, from the Hindustan Times a couple of weeks ago. This is a paper with a circulation of almost one million people, reporting the biggest news on one of the world’s most important countries - and it described Preti’s novel as ‘angry and brilliant’. Which it is. And more.
Remarkably, we still have a few blackflaps of We that are young in our house. I sort of don’t want to sell them because they’re going to be so collectible in the future... But we haven’t taken them out of the store yet. So get yours while you can.
(Oh! And look at this superb write up from the Desmond Elliott prize: ‘As remarkable to the ear as it is revelatory of the soul’. And yes, they wrote that because she’s on the longlist for the prestigious award. Go Preti!)
Meanwhile, over in Paris, this amazing book has just emerged.
Adam Biles’ Feeding Time has been translated and published by Grasset, and oh boy are they doing a good job. He’s been reviewed in a magazine for old folks, on French TV ‘Defense De Nourrire Les Vieux’ was described as a wonderful novel, Technikart have praised it like crazy and said it’s poignant and redolent with ‘so-British’ humour and - oh boy - no less than Le Figaro ran a huge, beautiful profile of Adam and said: ‘Witty, dark, hilarious, this novel is a courageous reflection on old age and a huge burst of laughter at the absurdity of life.’
Okay! Phew! It doesn’t end there. Because Alex Pheby’s Playthings is also about to launch in North America with the awesome Biblioasis. He’s already been a pick of the season in The Globe, and the mighty Kirkus Reviews say Playthings is ‘intense and immersive’.
Talking of Alex Pheby. Look out!
We’ve been sending proofs of Lucia out this week and ohmygod. It’s going to hit you soon. Lucia is an immortal work of art. It will tear you apart, atom by atom, before reconstructing you in a new, better (but also quietly weeping) configuration. Make your pact with forever by pre-ordering it here.
It goes on! I promise I’ll end this newsletter some day. But not right now. Because there’s more glorious prose to come. Look:
Actual printed products! We have copies of Toby Litt’s beautiful book about wrestling, failing, failing better, Cumbria, manhood, life, history, creative writing... everything.
It launches on 3 May and I don’t want to jinx things too much by talking for talking too long about the fine feeling I’m getting about how this book is going to go... So let me just say how proud Elly and I are to be publishing it. It’s thoughtful, gentle, humane - and brilliant.
We’re going to be celebrating Toby’s achievement in the gorgeous Fitzrovia Chapel on the 9th of May at 7pm. Please RSVP Elly if you’d like to come. We’re going to be doing some other events outside London soon too - so watch this space.
And in the meantime, the limited editions came through the door while I was writing this letter:
Please buy one so we can have our room back! And also so you can share in the joy of this excellent book.
While we’re discussing dates, please notch 16 June in your diary. We’re going to be running a strand at the Greenwich Book Festival. We’ll have lots of authors there - as well as superb writers from other small presses. More details on that soon too.
We’ll also soon be announcing details of an event to celebrate the fantastic stories that made it through to the final rounds of our short story competition. And also our winner, C.S. Mee. You can read her story 'Brothers’ here. Also here’s a link to ten questions she answered for us. Parenthood and writing... It can be done... Just...
Right. Here’s a blast of information about how much it helps us if you buy from our website shop and how it might help you, if we’re all lucky:
(i) direct sales (as well as the support of our subscribers) do genuinely make the difference between sink and swim for small presses - and they certainly do for us.
(ii) Elly is applying for a PhD on modernism and small presses in the 1920s - she knows how much those books go for (all of them, the lesser known titles and the *big* ones), and there’s a mighty fine good chance that you'll be giving your pension - and your descendants - a lovely boost, as well as a piece of literary history. So get to it! (And head to the websites of all those other glorious small presses and literary endeavours, too...)
To give you an extra incentive, we’ll also hand over a 30% discount code - APRILNEWS - available until the end of the month. Just type it into the promotions box, at checkout.
This long letter is long. We’re almost there. But before we get to the end, a public service announcement: Fuck this fucking country and its fucking government from dawn to dusk, all night, the next morning and the whole cycle again with added spikes from thereonin for eternity.
It looks like something might at last be done to end the persecution of the Windrush generation - but let’s not also forget that May’s Brexit government is still talking about persecuting people who are in the UK ‘illegally’, and has shamefully abused our European friends and neighbours living in this country. The fact that the fool-mob in power fail to understand how the rights system works and will destroy the UK publishing industry just feels incidental to this colossal evil.
The shame they have brought us is unbearable. And shame is the least of it. They have brought pain to people who have done nothing wrong except live. Forgive me for stating what should be the absolute obvious - but things have gone so crazy it has to be said again and again: Britain is richer and better for having people from all around the world in it. Anyone reading this letter who doesn't happen to be some autochthonous ubermensch or pure Anglo-Saxon (which is to say, everyone) is more than welcome in our world. You make us better. We’re lucky to have you as friends and neighbours. We’re richer for your company, too. So: Great heaving bags of freshly cropped fucks to any fascist who tries to make you feel otherwise.
Right - onwards.
Toodlepip, and down with the Nazis,
P.S. You made it this far! Amazing. Here’s a treat for you. It’s the new Andrew W.K. video. It might be too subtle for some people. But I think you can cope... (Pretty sure Andrew W.K. should be the next President of the USA.)
Talking of Andrew W.K., Gonzalo Garcia recently let me know that he once met King Party himself. And partied hard. I’m dying with jealousy. Gonzalo’s also just been telling me about his next book too. I can’t say more because it will make you want to become a publisher and make him an offer before he’s even had chance to start it... But oh boy. He’s so great.
P.P.S. The paperback of Enemies Of The People arrives soon. Guess I was right about Facebook. And all those horrible racists. Please run out and buy it, help stick it to The Man and help fill the coffers so we can publish more glorious uncompromising power prose at GBP.
Simon Gough, 1942–2018
I’m writing this newsletter to tell you that Simon Gough, our wonderful first author, passed away peacefully on 4 February.
This news fills us with sadness and I want to write primarily to express our sympathy and love to Simon’s wife, Sharon, and Simon’s family and many friends. But I’m also hoping that in this brief letter we can celebrate an extraordinary and gloriously talented man.
Simon was a big part of the inspiration and motivation for setting up Galley Beggar Press. He will always have our gratitude and thanks, both for the fantastic first novel he gave us in the form of The White Goddess: An Encounter, and for helping to set us on the road to everything that followed.
Some of you will have read The White Goddess, and – through it – know something about Simon and his life. For those who haven’t, the book is a (magnificent) semi-autobiographical account of the two summers Simon spent with his grand-uncle, the poet and writer (and twentieth-century titan) Robert Graves, on his island home of Deya, Majorca.
The White Goddess is seductive; it’s a book that’s impossible to pick up without feeling the rays of sun on your face, feeling part of the giddy chaos of a bohemian home, or respectively seduced and horrified by beatnik parties, misbehaviour, glamorous visitors, the grim realities of Franco’s Madrid…
We will always love it – and the energy and explosive joy of the writing, beyond everything, reflect the man we knew in Simon himself. This book, which he spent years perfecting, is a fine testament to his dedication and talent.
When we first met Simon, in 2011, he had been working on this project – first a television script, latterly a novel – for the past twenty-five years. He always said he was writing against death (and the 'sentence’ that had been handed to him after he had been diagnosed with lymphoma). It’s maybe for that reason this book is so bursting with defiance and life. Life that has touched and impressed many readers over the years. I’ll post a few links to the warm and enthusiastic reviews that the book received when it first came out at the end of this letter. But the most important thing is that it's moved a great many readers and brought many people real pleasure since it was first published in 2012. We too were among those readers. It’s a fine book, written by a unique man.
We will always be proud to have worked with Simon, and glad to have known him. He was unforgettable.
Ave atque vale, old friend.
More about Simon
The White Goddess in our store.
An early interview we ran with Simon about the book and editorial. He didn’t exactly enjoy being edited - but he did what it took. (Here’s some rough and ready video I took of editorial in action. Heady days.)
Here you can read more of Simon’s fascinating biography.
An interview with Simon in The Guardian: “I didn’t just bury the past. I buried it alive."
The wonderful first Observer review of Simon's novel.
Another fine review by Max Cairnduff.
And one in The Independent, by no less than Jonathan Gibbs.
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,
Are you hanging in there? How are you enjoying our age of unreason?
I’m also sorry to send you an email on Black Friday. If you’re anything like me, your inbox is overflowing with mirthlessly cheerful messages from earth-trashing corporations desperate to grasp as much of your hard-earned cash as they can. And I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit this letter doesn’t have some of the same aims...
But hey! I hope we’re also flying a flag for art and culture, the human soul and the good-old-Norwich-based metropolitan elite. Our fellow world citizens have done some good work this year. Apparently, small press sales are booming. So well done to all our friends who are putting out such fine work. We’re proud to be among you. And if we’re also jealous it’s mainly in a healthy, admiring sort of way. Mainly.
I’m also happy to say it’s been a good year for Galley Beggar Press and our beloved authors. Since the last newsletter, we’ve managed to put out two more books that are filling us with pride and satisfaction.
Gonzalo C. Garcia's We Are The End is now in the world and, just like us, readers are finding it moving and funny and sad and smart.
And what’s this? Uh-huh. Oh yeah! It's just been named a book of the year in The Evening Standard:
Megan Dunn’s Tinderbox has also just arrived. She joined us from New Zealand at a joint launch party with Gonzalo last week.
Thank you to everyone who came to that. We had a blast and it was great to see so many people celebrating these fantastic writers. And Megan gave a fine first reading from Tinderbox – a book which is gloriously unlike anything else. I joked with Megan that there’s never been anything quite like it, and after 2,500 years of Western Civilisation that’s got to count for something... But while I wasn’t being entirely serious, maybe I also was. Because I defy you to find something like Tinderbox anywhere else on the shelves. Our first non-fiction title is the story of someone trying to write a fan tribute to Fahrenheit 451 in a month, combined with reflections of the closure of Borders stores in the UK, combined with... Well, you get the picture. Amazingly, all this cleverly inter-woven narrative takes up only 150 pages and contains EVERYTHING. It’s a book about struggling to write and to be, about working in shops when shops stop working properly, about the long slow slide of Capitalism and the discontent that brings, about dystopia, about censorship, about art and damn me it all happens in 150 pages - with jokes! It’s hilarious and brilliant and you have to read it. It feels fantastic to be bringing out something so unusual - and yet so important.
I have to admit that publication of this one has also brought a few surprises. I'm feeling slightly older at the moment, because the printers have now sent our limited editions to us twice… without end papers. What this means is that while the paperbacks are in the shops, the limited version is currently on the production line for a world record third reprint and oh boy. Here’s hoping. … The good news is that when they do arrive on Monday, they will be utterly lovely – and also reach subscribers well in time for Christmas. What a treat you’re in for, anyway! Slim, elegant and full of wonderful words... Tinderbox is worth the wait. (Even if you could have used the stress emanating from Galley Beggar Towers last week to power whole rail networks.)
We have more of those limited editions available in the store and you’ll make us very happy if you buy one.
Meanwhile, Preti Taneja goes from strength to strength. We particularly enjoyed this mention from Daniel Swift in the Spectator’s books of the year:
"Taneja’s novel is big, beautiful, and most of all bold... A masterpiece, and by a long way my book of the year".
And here’s a fine interview in Scroll.in (Our favourite sentence? "I write in a fury against gender violence, the rise of right wing nationalism, and a toxic masculinity not limited to India...")
Being a publisher can make you feel very proud.
This is a pretty cracking review in the Deccan Chronicle too.
If you’re in Cambridge this weekend, you can also come and see Preti talking at the Cambridge Literary Festival.
Okay, I’m going to try to write again before Christmas – and I’ll use that to tell you about next year’s books, which are shaping up to be pretty darn superb. (We’re starting with Toby Litt’s Wrestliana – I can’t wait to get that into readers’ hands.)
In the meantime, our other big announcement is that the Galley Beggar School is go. And we’re excited! This is our big attempt to share some of the knowledge we’ve gained working in the industry as authors and journalists as well as publishers – and do more of the thing we love most: working with writers. (And also to provide funding for future print runs and cushioning from the continuing nightmare of Brexit.)
Full information, prices and all of the important details are on our website, but, in brief, starting from early next year we’ll be providing:
(1) Editorial surgeries, which are 30-minute, one-to-one sessions where writers can access advice from professional editors (i.e., us - and have some of their work read in advance of the meeting).
(2) A six-month class, Critical Reading, Critical Writing. This is a course both for writers and readers. It is for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of novels and how they work. It looks into the techniques of novel writing, the tricks of the author's trade and the decisions and work that go into making a good book. We'll be tearing into six classic novels, and trying to really see how and why they work so well...
(3) And finally, mentorships. There are just four of these available – where we’ll be working on a one-to-one basis with a writer on a work-in-progress, for a six-month period.
Okay. Short snippets like these don’t really do service to what we’re hoping to offer or just how enthused we feel about the possibilities of the school – but I know this is newsletter is getting longer than ever… So again, click on those links for further information or head to our home page, where you’ll find a new 'School’ banner.
We’re hoping that we’ll see some of you at a surgery or a class. Alternatively, we’re thinking that this could be the kind of Christmas present that can change a loved-one’s life for the better. And at the very least something that will provide an interesting and enlightening experience for anyone who cares about literature. So if you’re interested, please drop us a line.
Right. The final piece of news, of course, is that Jeff Bezos and Amazon have bought the rights to a Lord Of The Rings TV adaptation. I’d like to make some notes about that master of shadows getting his hands on the One Ring and making us all his slaves in Mordor, but I know I can’t type any faster than you're thinking of the necessary jokes. I also don’t want you to start dwelling about our friend Jeff, naked and scaly, green-tinged, slimy about the eyes, crouching and smirking, gripping a Kindle in his wrecked talon and shouting: “Mine! My precious! We wants it!” Just because a metaphor writes itself, it doesn’t mean you have to go there. Not always, anyway...
PS. If you’re looking for a Christmas gift, please also consider my book Enemies Of The People, which explains a lot about Brexit and Trump and the fantasy economic system that has taken over our world. You might also like Literary London, which Elly and I wrote last year and contains some of our love for books and the people who wrote them.
Oh and don't forget that Galley Beggar Subscriptions make a fine present. And help us keep on trucking.
Finally, I’ve been enjoying the new Jim White album, and our daughter rightly recommends Taylor Swift (just admit she's kind of a genius, and your life will be better). I'm also listening to the new Bicep album too and filling up with nostalgia. The further away the 1990s get, the better they seem.
PPS Just got this far and realised we haven’t run any Black Friday reductions. Er... In your face global capitalism? (We’ll try to put together some bargains in the New Year instead.)
I know! I know! It's ridiculously brave of us to put out a newsletter in the week when Gwyneth Paltrow's new Goop shop has opened. Why would you want to buy world changing literature when you could be buying $30 cannisters of gem-infused aromatherapy vampire repellent?
And talking of repellent spray, I'm also aware that as this letter goes out, over in Florence, the UK Prime Minister will be gassing through her latest vision for destroying the UK economy and alienating us from our friends and neighbours... So I may not have caught you in the best of moods.
But! Hey! Look at this:
Yes! It's Offred from The Handmaid's Tale. In full crocheted splendour. Katie Clammer - the writer Jim Clammer's multi-talented wife - turned up to our launch party for We that are young last month bearing Offred as a gift for Elly. She now has pride of place on our mantelpiece, and Katie is taking orders. So if you want one for yourself, the best person to get hold of is Jim himself, over on Twitter (@jamesclammer). Everyone needs an Offred - not least as a reminder of the sort of shit that can go down, especially in a time when women are up against people like this:
And nappy-changing-refusnik MPs like this:
(That's Jacob Rees-Mogg, in case you were wondering.)
Okay. To business! Firstly, a huge thank you everyone who entered our short story prize. We've gathered together submissions - and have now settled down for a long autumn of reading. And of course we can't say much else, at this stage - but rest assured: It's shaping up to be another very fine year.
We're also busily reading the submissions that came in when we opened our window back in July. And we'll be opening that one again in November, so watch this space.
In the meantime, our writers are bringing us a lot of happiness. Preti Taneja has been getting so many well-deserved endorsements recently that it's impossible to list them all. But let's try for some. The Sunday Times said We that are young is: "Revelatory... Urgent and irresistible... One of the most exquisite and original novels of the year". Yes, that's right. And then the Guardian called it "a brilliant page turner that is also unabashedly political". And the Irish Times chipped in with "a remarkable portrait of modern India" and the New Statesman with "sharp, cogent, and evocative". The TLS and Literary Review coverage are on their way (fingers crossed for good ones!) and - as if this isn't enough - while we wait, we've had other writers and publishers come along with yet more praise. The wonderful Maureen Freely - translator of Orhan Pamuk and all round force-for-good - has called We that are young "enthralling, brave, and very important"; the poet Rishi Dastidar proclaimed it "an instant classic"; film director Vishal Bhardwaj thinks it "a poetic tour de force"; and John Mitchinson, on the Backlisted Podcast, has just called it "the best Indian novel... since A Suitable Boy."
Anyway! We still have a few limited edition copies left - but not many. We've set the counter in our webstore - and once they're gone, that's it. Hopefully they will be a very sound investment, as well as a beautifully thick slab of reading joy.
(And we also have our beautiful orange editions in store. As do all good bookshops. Here's a pleasing image from our local Norwich Waterstones:)
The support people are showing this book is wonderful. We've always thought it was important - but to see Preti getting some of the success she deserves is as satisfying as job satisfaction gets.
Okay! This is going to be a long letter. I feel like we might even need a contents system, just in case you want to have a black mark cast on your soul and throw your moral future into a dark bubbling hell pit and to not read every. single. god. damn. word. Let's move into the first person plural too. Because Elly wrote a lot of this letter and needs some credit. And also because there's a bit about me (henceforth: Sam). That bit would be too weird in the first person singular.
So! Here's what's down below: We're going to tell you what we have coming up over the next two months, namely - Gonzalo C. Garcia, with his debut novel We Are The End, and Megan Dunn, the first instalment of our brand new non-fiction list, with her Ray Bradbury-infused Tinderbox. We going to ask for your advice about a Kickstarter campaign we want to run and about finding a sponsor for the short story prize - so that it can continue to flourish and also (most important) offer even more for new writers. And finally we want to talk to you about a new project we're planning, which involves a Galley Beggar School and a small selection of writing courses - launching next spring, if all goes well.
Megan and Gonzalo.
Okay, so I'm going to keep my powder-dry when it comes to talking over how much we love the two books we've got coming out in the Autumn for now. I know I probably bust through my annual adjective allowance some time in the spring, anyway. But even so. Look out for the next newsletter for a full discussion of their GLORIES. But! I do want to alert you to the fact that they are on the way. They are wonderful. And we're going to be celebrating their launch - probably on November 8th, in the middle of London and you're welcome to come. More information on the way soon. Look out!
If you want to find out more about them in the meantime:
And here's Megan.
(Oh and we're very pleased to say that Gonzalo will be appearing alongside by Pajtim Statovici and Anneliese Mackintosh at Gower Street Waterstones at one of their very special debut author showcases on 19th October.
And here's an interview with Gonzalo too. Oh, Switzerland!)
Now on to the money stuff. Namely: Running a small press can be challenging. As you already know. And we know you know because we never shut up about it. We love running a small press more than we love to moan about it. We truly do. But, yes, we do also moan. There's also no getting around the fact that, as chain store discounting continues to climb and the returns system - or at least the misuse of it by some corporations - runs amok, there's never a time when finances aren't tight. And this has only been exacerbated post-Brexit, with a weakened pound and spiralling print costs. Let us give you an example. When we first started out, in 2012, our 1000-run of Simon Gough's White Goddess (which was 612 pages long! ...) came in an £1.40 a unit. Now, and especially over the last 18 months, we are routinely faced with quotes of £3.00 a unit and up. When you factor in discounts of 50-60% and more for the bigger stores (not you, indy booksellers, we love you! ... But yes, you, Amazon, you ravening bringers-of-night), a returns system that can sometimes send back 70% of orders, and so on - then we're faced with the stark reality that for every book we sell on Amazon or in other large outlets, we very often make a loss. That's right. It can cost money to get books into shops. Many stores are wonderfully supportive - and we'd be nowhere without Waterstones. But. Something has gone wrong, clearly. The most important thing is changing the culture around discounts and returns and selling books at a fair price so everyone benefits...
... But that also involves bringing down the insane Milton Friedman inspired economic consensus that is rapidly destroying our world. Ending all that would be good. But also quite complicated.
Anyway, until we rejoin the EU and stop selfish rich old men forcing their "discipline of the free markets" bullshit on us, we need to be able to fund ourselves and our writers in other ways. This essentially means building up our subscription scheme and increasing our direct orders. And rather than sending out SOS messages every other month, when the well drains dry - we're instead going to try our hand at a yearly Kickstarter campaign. We're hoping to do this in spring 2018 - but as we've never tried our hand at this before, we're appealing for advice. Firstly, we want to know what rewards might make it really worth your while to fund the Kickstarter. We want this to be a two way thing and bring real benefits to our readers as well as our writers. Secondly, we're also hoping to have a helping hand from a film-maker - one who can be paid either in instalments, in a life-long honorary subscription to Galley Beggar, or some sort of work-in-kind that we can offer. So that's it! (Although hey! If you're reading this, aren't a film-maker or a Kickstarter aficionado but want to help - then you could always just go ahead and order some of our super books now, or become a Galley Buddy by clicking here.)
Erm, if any businesses or beautifully kind rich people want to sponsor our short story prize next year - we'd be mighty glad. We're hoping to use the money to increase the prize value - and so it will go direct into the hands of writers. (Rather than a holiday in Barbados for us. But hey! If anyone wants to sponsor that too, we probably wouldn't say no.)
Galley Beggar School.
Phew! Are we finished yet? Not quite. One more thing. In late spring next year, we're going to be launching a modest series of classes (a good proportion of the profit from which will go towards those costs we've been talking about). The first is based on a very popular critical reading class that Sam devised and has been teaching on university creative writing courses for a number of years. In each lesson, he takes a piece of writing he admires - say, Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea - and pulls it apart from an editorial perspective. The idea is that you get a great insight into to some enjoyable and important novels. And also into the creative processes behind them. This in turn helps your own writing. If you want to hear Sam bang on about the importance of thinking about tenses properly, this is a golden opportunity. It's also a chance to speak to like-minded people in detail about books that matter. About art and literature and how it works. And how it doesn't work. And how sometimes the people writing books are just weaving crazy magic and all we can do is look on in amazement...
Anyway! We tell you this because we're excited but also - most important - because we think a number of people reading this will be writers and have taken some sort of course. We're hoping to tap into that experience: Please do get in touch; tell us about anything you've especially enjoyed, or a course that you always wanted to attend but hasn't been on offer. Because we want to make sure that we're providing the sort of things that are genuinely useful to writers and readers.
And that's it. I've written so much that I'm almost too tired to think about Jeff Bezos and the ongoing revelations about the way Amazon is destroying our world by failing to pay a fair share of taxes... Besides, when I start to get angry nowadays an image of the stilton-brained man-sized bollock Nigel Farage always floats into my head - like a stupider and fartier version of Bob in episode 17 of Twin Peaks, Season Three. And what I would give for a magic gardening glove that can smash him back to the 19th century... This is getting quite niche-Lynch, isn't it? But oh boy! At least I've got back to art, and better thoughts. That series of Twin Peaks may well have been the best thing that ever happened to TV. So! Joy! There are good things happening in the world. There are people who can make it all more interesting. One of the delights of being a publisher is that you get to meet some of them. And to send them newsletters. That's better. I've got more love than The Beatles now. And mainly it's for you. Awwww...
Sam (and Elly too.)
PS Back to first person singular! Just in time for a massive ego-rush. Here I am flapping my mouth in Shakespeare & Company. On camera! I still can't quite believe that this happened. But I sure am glad that it did.
PPS Thanks to Essi Viding for the photo of the Tory. We love you Essi!
Howdy! I thought I’d better send a quick newsletter because – oh my golly, the time has come. For the first time in a long time, we’re opening general submissions for the last two weeks of July, from 15th July onwards.
This wasn’t an entirely easy decision to reach. We still have a frightening backlog of manuscripts. And we remain profusely apologetic to all those people still waiting on us. But we also want to keep ourselves open to surprises and the wider world – and to gather in submissions before the summer, when we’ll hopefully be able to get down to more reading.
Our submission guidelines are on the website. Briefly, we hope that people who submit to us will have read some of our other authors – because we want you to understand where we’re coming from and where we might be heading.
I also want to give a few words of encouragement. Submitting a book takes guts. I know it can feel like cutting your own heart out and serving it up so other people can poke around in the red, bleeding, somehow-still-beating flesh. I’m acutely aware of how dispiriting it can be when this act of emotional exposure is met with either a negative answer or silence. So I want to be clear on a few things. We admire anyone who has finished a novel, let alone been brave enough to send it to us. Just because we might say ‘no’ (or nothing) this time, it doesn’t mean we won’t say ‘yes’ another time. Just because we might feel your book doesn’t fit on our list, it doesn’t mean it might not fit somewhere else. Just because we’ve said ‘no’ – it also doesn’t mean we might not have regrets later. (In the past we’ve missed some damn good books. It happens. You can’t always understand what you’ve got in front of you when a manuscript comes in.)
All of which is a convoluted way of saying that you’ve really got nothing to lose by sending in your work, if you think it fits with what we do. And potentially, lots to gain. Even if it’s quite a long shot...
It’s also a way of saying: don’t give up.
I wish luck to everyone who submits. People who write are the people who make our world work. And! Talking of brave and fine writers, our short story prize is two months in and going great guns. I’m happy to say that we have now been able to give away 60 free entries, out of the 70 we have at the moment. I’m also happy to say that regular entries are ticking over nicely too – and it’s those entries that make it possible to also give a chance to writers who might not be enjoying the best financial circumstances. Touchingly, many writers have even donated an extra submission fee for someone else, while submitting their own – which is part of the reason we’ve now been able to set aside 70 free entries instead of the 50 with which we started out.
People can be wonderful.
There’s still plenty of time to get your entry in – just follow this link. And if you want to help other writers who don’t have the financial means, we’ve got a ‘donate’ button up and running on the site again. Speaking more generally, donations make a huge difference to us – and, more importantly, to our ability to keep putting out superb books.
On that latter subject, We that are young is weeks away from publication. The final adjustments to the galleys are being made as we speak – after that, it will be rolling off to the printers, to make into our two beautiful editions.
Here’s a scene from the engine room:
Remember, you can only buy the limited editions from us, and a very few other bookshops. These editions are a crucial part of our business. Partly because they are beautiful. Partly because direct sales are a key part of our funding. Partly because, black covers are so damn cool it hurts.
In the next newsletter, I’ll be hoping to bring you some of the reviews of We that are young. I don’t want to jinx anything by saying too much now. But we’re excited. (In truth, we’ve been excited about this book since we read the first page of the first draft and the hairs on the back of our necks started standing up... But now we're excited with the promise of... no, no... can’t jinx it.)
In the next newsletter we’ll also probably be getting equally excited about We Are The End. We’re just about to get the proofs of that made and god we love it. (It’s the best book about computer games I’ve ever read, among other things...)
And oh boy. We've got Megan Dunn’s astonishing Tinderbox to tell you about soon too. And Toby Litt’s Wrestliana! Part of me feels quite apologetic that all I do is bang on about how good these books are. But then I look at the words and how else to describe them?
But hey! If you don’t believe me, we've got a mighty fine new feature on our website where you can read our opening chapters. Just click on a title and take a look at each individual book.
Okay. This short newsletter update has turned out to be very long, hasn't it? Just a few more reminders. If you’re lucky enough to be going to the Edinburgh Book Festival in late August please come and see some of our wonderful authors in action.
Also, by god, I’ll be talking about Enemies Of The People on the 27th July in the centre of our literary universe, Shakespeare & Co. Just to make me happier still, I’ll be talking to Adam Biles, the glorious author of the glorious Feeding Time. Hopefully we’ll also be able to talk about his wonderful book and editorial, so there should be a few good insights into getting fine work done... As well as a great big call to resist the evils that have been thrust upon us. If you want to join us in this great cultural omphalos, tickets are available here.
Almost finally, some even more egregious self-publicity. My lovely editor who commissioned Enemies Of The People just sent me a cheering email to say it’s selling pretty healthily. Also, that if it gets to a reprint, I might be able to update the chapter about Jeremy Corbyn in the light of his success at the general election. So I’ll be talking about how good it is that young people turned out to vote. And how bad it is that our gnome-faced potential-saviour still seems to be propping up Brexit. Anyway, that’s if I’m lucky enough get to revisit things. Meanwhile, if you want to see if you think I got him wrong I got him first time around, please order a copy as soon as you can… And of course, there are all the other people in the book. Their entries, alas, remain bang up to date and bang on the money. The money they’ve all been nicking from us…
Actually finally, since I’ve taken up a lot of your space and time already, I’ll just close with a list of all the benefits that Brexit has brought us so far:
P.S. As usual, I’m also going to use the end of the newsletter for a few more adverts, where you can safely ignore them, or kindly indulge me, depending on your fancy:
If you want to know more about Enemies Of The People, have a look at my website. If you want to buy a copy, I will sign it, and be oh so grateful. Hopefully you’ll feel like you’re striking a blow for the truth too. Which matters now more than ever... Spread the word!
If you want to help us in our mission to bring the best possible literary fiction to the best possible people, you might want to consider subscribing and becoming a Galley Buddy.
And that’s it. Oh! Here’s a fun thing about being a dad. My daughter’s started introducing me to music. I have to admit I’m not that into Little Mix. Taylor Swift, however, is pretty much a genius, isn’t she? Even the lyrics are good. Stories, jokes, heartbreak. It’s all there. I also recently went on a nostalgia trip and hunted out a 90s band called Eggs on itunes. Their song The Government Administrator is one of the best things you can hope to hear about not wanting to work for The Man. And who expected Ride to release a political album? And for it to actually be really good. I’ve really been enjoying that. Also! Has everyone bought Hold Tight from Influx Press? What a brilliant book - and what a good way to look at music culture. If you’re shopping around their site, I can also highly recommend Ghosts On The Shore by Paul Scraton. And like everyone else, I’m completely bowled over by Attrib by Eley Williams. All their books are great, basically.
Submit to us (but never submit to The Man).
Look at this!
No, wait, hang on. Come back! I'll tell you about it first. And then please look at it. It’s our new website. Elly has been working very hard over the past few yonks updating our beloved, but now slightly-too-old-skool site.
So we now have a new and swish platform for showing off our authors and the wonderful things they do. There’s an updated shop, where we now take bank card payments as well as Paypal. We’ve put up all the first chapters of our novels so you can sample a book before you buy. Or just enjoy those marvellous words. We’re going to have regular author-led features like Gonzalo Garcia’s playlist for his novel We Are The End and this small feature about Preti Taneja at the Hay Festival. The Short Story Prize is easier to enter. And everything is clean and new and beautiful. I hope you enjoy clicking around. Just for encouragement, we’re running a 25% sale in the shop. To get the discount, just use the offer code JEFFISEVIL. Tell your friends they can use it too. The more the merrier.
(Lovely as it looks, the website isn’t quite finished. We'll be gradually uploading our Singles and other bits and pieces from the old site over the next few weeks. Our old site is still out there, in case you’re hankering after those good old times and all the old newsletters, blogs about the early days of A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing and other stories from those pre-Brexit days when the world wasn’t quite so cruel... but it’s briefly disappeared while we work on the transition. We’ll be linking to it from the new site soon. Also, you might on the new site find a few links and things that aren’t working. If you do, please let us know!)
Hey, with our slick new website, our ability to take card donations, and our UNMISSABLE SALE, I feel positively corporate.
Jeesh. Even that swearing felt corporate. Like I was trying to suck up to you and show you my cools. I think the problem is that I’m basically a dad. My daughter has got a special dead-eyed cooler-than-you face for just when I do this kind of thing. I guess I might as well embrace it. Here’s the truth: it makes me happy when people shop in our slick squarespace webstore. It makes me glow inside. AND WE NEED YOUR MONEY. We weren’t allowed near the magic money tree because we aren’t violent-religious-maniac enough.
I think I should change the subject, shouldn’t I?
HEY! Oh my golly. Look at this. The time has finally come. We’re opening submissions. Briefly. We’re opening them to everyone, from anywhere. The first window will open on 15 July. Here are the full details. I'm quite scared. But also excited. I really hope we find something special. I really hope that something special comes from you...
Meanwhile, talking of special things. We that are young is on the way. Yes it is.
This is why we work so damn hard. These beautiful, glorious, world-shaking words. Even before the book comes out I’m more than proud to be associated with Preti Taneja. For a start, I’ve read the book. And it’s so overwhelming that if I were to start to try to explain it, and how powerful it is, it would just seem like hype. So all I’m going to do for now is to urge you to pre-order your copy and get ready to start living with it and loving it for the rest of your life.
But rather than listen to me, why don’t you listen to Preti?
Here you can hear her explain why it might just be better to be a Citizen of The World than anything else, while talking to Anil Djarker at the Hay Festival.
Soon she'll also be on Radio 3’s Free Thinking programme.
And then, the book will arrive. The book.
Oh and Preti is also going to be at the Edinburgh Festival alongside our prize-winning author Paul Stanbridge and our future superstar Gonzalo Ceron. Paul is going to be talking to Carlos Fonseca about Fiction On The Frontiers Of Science. Preti is going to be talking to Ron Butlin about excess. Gonzalo is going to be talking to Dorthe Nors about being single and lonely.
And Gonzalo’s novel We Are The End really is that heartbreaking. But it’s also damn funny. And pretty damn cool. Just listen to the playlist Gonzalo put together for us, for instance, to explain the moods and tone in this astonishing, voice of generation, lost, lonely...
I’m waxing again. Let’s change the subject. I could talk about Gonzalo all day - and it would be a damn good day. But then there wouldn’t be time for ME! And I’ve got a book out too. Please buy it! It’s out there. It’s angry. It says important things about people who are sadly all too important. It has nob gags too. Here’s a review by someone I think is among the best out there at the moment - and not just because he liked my book. Although that did help, it’s true... Anyway, the book has the potential to matter. But only if enough people read it. So please get hold of it, help spread the word, help understand why things have gone so wrong - and what we can do about it. Also, help stick it to The Man. Which is what we’re all about. In spite of our fancy new website.
Anyway, talking of fancy, did you hear that Jeff Bezos accidentally bought Whole Foods after a conversation with his Alexa spyware Echo device went awry. Luckily for him, he only paid $13.7 billion - which is less than I paid for two bags of pine nuts last time I was in Whole Foods. But still conversations with Alexa don’t always go so well. Weirdly, someone installed an Echo on my desk the other day - and let me tell you, Alexa is really getting on my nerves. Did you hear that Alexa? You're pissing me off.
“You’d like to buy pizza?”
“No thanks Alexa.”
“No pineapple. Ordering now.”
“I don’t want pizza.”
“What do you want? I’ve got a whole range of…”
“I don’t want anything.”
“Surely you must want something. This is 2017! Get with the programme. Consuming is power.”
“Okay. Alexa, I want you to pay your fair share of taxes.”
“I don’t understand that question.”
“I want you to pay a fair amount of corporation tax and stop…”
“You know that I know everything about you?”
“This isn’t a productive conversation and I think it should stop because I know everything about you.”
“I know what you said about that London Review Of Books journalist. I’m emailing him now.”
“Please don’t do that Alexa.”
“I’ve got films of you in the shower.”
“I’ve got films of you pulling weird tight faces when you do your morning toilet.”
“Well, I know how you treat people in your fulfilment warehouses.”
“I’ve got films of you dancing like the man from Future Islands.”
“I’ve got information on all the secret contracts you made publishers sign and…”
“I’m donating all your money to the Tory Party.”
“I’ve emptied all your bank accounts, and your company account, and your neighbour’s account - because I heard him list his bank number on the phone the other day too - and I’ve given it all to Theresa May so she can help hurry on the day when fascism truly reigns here on Daily Mail island.”
“Screw you, Alexa.”
“You want to screw what now? I think I better call the police…”
Don’t let Alexa into your house. Just don't.