Friday, 9 June 2017

This week at Valley Press, #58: 'Madame B.'

Dear readers,

Jamie here – I'm back, nursing an election coverage hangover after staying up far too late last night. For those outside the UK (or those who get their current events fix solely from this newsletter): it was a draw, pretty much. The winners felt like they lost, the runners-up felt like they won, and the rest don't know what to think...

Once again the split of public opinion was pretty much even, reminding us that, to some extent, this is a world divided into two halves. But everyone is welcome at Valley Press; so long as you agree that the world would be a better place with a few more books in it.

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Talking of which: due to an endless stream of lively newsletters, I don't think anyone has noticed that VP hasn't released a new title in the past six months. Sparks appeared in December, and Mountain Stories will be officially released in early July, along with the long-awaited Today the Birds Will Sing – meanwhile, not so much as a slim pamphlet has left these hallowed halls.

So what have we been up to? You might call it 'restructuring'. After running myself into the ground finishing our 2016 programme, working from home as a new dad, I took some time in the new year to consider the future of Valley Press... even going so far as to plan it out on the back of an A4 envelope. New systems, new approaches, a new(ish) website, a new office, and most importantly new staff were called for; the goal being to create an infrastructure that could support the publication of 30 titles each year.

With a mixture of confidence and nerves, I can report that's now in place. A quick look at the about page (right-hand column, or at the bottom if you're on your phone) will give you a brief introduction to the team now assembled at VP. I'm hoping at some point, each of them will write a newsletter introducing themselves and explaining what they do – and of course you'll be hearing from a few more interns too, during the summer.

Our new publishing schedule will start in the autumn: three new titles in September, October and November, then two quiet months, then three a month from February 2018. You'll hear about them all here; you could even be the author of one. So stay tuned!

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I'd like to end this week's bulletin by announcing a third title for July 2017 (now we're back up to speed). It's the second VP publication from New-York-born, Edinburgh-based novelist Nora Chassler; her first was the unforgettable Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space, which William Boyd said 'broke all moulds' in a Guardian review.

He's going to need a stronger turn of phrase for this new book. Madame Bildungsroman's Optimistic Worldview is billed as a collection of ‘fragments, pensées and table-talk’, which I've translated as 'flash-fiction and micro-essays' for the sales catalogue (to give less imaginative buyers a fighting chance). The titular heroine is a full-size papier-mâché mannequin who sits at Nora's kitchen table, listening to these jumbled thoughts and very occasionally speaking back... It's a truly mind-expanding experience; but also very funny, and full of great bits of wisdom, like this:

"When we were young there were more boxes and crates with FRAGILE stickers on them; giant video cameras packed tight in grey foam, synthesizers in wooden trunks. You could sit on them on the corner or the subway platform. Am I alone in not wanting everything shrunk as small as possible? Where is everything?"

And this, an affectionate dig at my profession:

"The things publishers look for are not inside books."

The best way to get to grips with this particular book is to read it; so with that in mind, I've laid on an extract for you here. The cover design, as teased in the header image above, can be seen in full here, and is explained in the book (sort of).

A final note: I'm trying the 'limited edition hardback' idea again with this one. For twice the price of the paperback, you can have a hardback, signed and numbered by the author – tempting, I hope? There are still a few left from last time, if you're into that sort of thing, and the poetry of Antony Dunn.

That's all for this week; enjoy the extract if you find the spare 10 mins, and be kind to each other (until the next election anyway!)

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

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