Thursday, 1 January 2015

New start-ups in 2015

New ventures in 2015 will include books from Jo Bell’s 52 project; the first two publications from Jennifer Griggs’s Green Bottle Press; the first books from the poetry list at Liverpool University Press, edited by Deryn Rees-Jones; and the first publication from Cécile Menon’s Les Fugitives.

More new presses? In politics and economics, this country is up shit creek; public funding for the arts is cut and cut again; and anyway, ‘no one reads books’. Yet, in just the past few years, Penned in the Margins, Peirene, And Other Stories, Eyewear, Istros, Notting Hill Editions, Emma Press … Magazines, too: print (Gorse, Bare Fiction, the reincarnation of Ambit) and online (Asymptote) and both (The White Review). Many of these presses are finding a readership for kinds of writing – work in translation by writers no one in the UK has heard of, short stories – that according to traditional publishing wisdom don’t stand a chance. Maybe, having nothing to lose, we become both more adventurous and more discriminating.

Meanwhile, according to Robert McCrum in last Sunday’s Observer, the only thing happening in literature in 2015 will be some books looking ahead to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in April the following year. Bless.


The novel by Nathalie Léger from Les Fugitives I recommend. ‘First published in France in 2012 to critical and popular acclaim, this is the first book about Barbara Loden: a genre-bending novel inspired by her film Wanda – a masterpiece of early cinema vérité, an anti-Bonnie-and-Clyde road movie about a young woman adrift in rust-belt Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, until she embarks on a crime spree with a small-time crook […] As research yields few new insights into Loden’s sketchy biography, the words of Duras, Perec, Godard, Plath, Kate Chopin, Melville, Beckett, Sebald et al. come to the narrator’s rescue […]’

Wanda is one of those cult movies. In the novel I happen to be reading right now, Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethowers (which throws together motorbikes, the 1970s New York art scene, and radical politics in Italy), a woman and her boyfriend are mugged outside a bar in New York at night; the boyfriend shoots the mugger’s hand and waits with him until an ambulance comes, telling the woman to go home, which she does, and turns on the TV and ‘The three a.m. movie was just beginning’. Guess which. The next pages are waiting, memories, and running commentary on the film.

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