Guest post by independent publisher, And Other Stories

andotherstorieslogo

As part of my feature on the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited those publishers whose books made it through to the shortlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Nicky from And Other Stories to tell us a little about this excellent publishing house. I review their contender for the prize, Martin John by Anakana Schofield, here.

And Other Stories was founded by our publisher Stefan Tobler in 2010, as a result of his frustration with the conservative tendencies in the publishing industry, and a desire to do publishing in a different way – a way that was committed to extraordinary writing, rather than guaranteed commercial success.

As a translator, he was tired of constantly hearing that publishers loved the books he was showing them, but wouldn’t be publishing them because they were too risky. Other writers and translators were also concerned, and they got together to brainstorm ideas. And Other Stories was born out of these discussions. Our business model is not-for- profit and based on subscriptions (And Other Stories was the first modern independent publisher to bring back this eighteenth-century idea). And Other Stories also opened up the commissioning process through a series of reading groups where translators and readers of a particular language would come together to discuss books that And Other Stories might like to publish.

And readers and critics were apparently ready for this new approach. Two of the books published by And Other Stories in 2011, our first year of operation, went on to be shortlisted for major prizes (the Man Booker Prize for Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home and the Guardian First Book Award for Juan Pablo Villalobos’s Down the Rabbit Hole). Many of our books have gone on to get widespread recognition and to find thousands of readers. In 2016, Lisa Dillman’s translation of Yuri Herrera’s brilliant novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, which weaves together Latin American mythology, US-Mexican border politics and linguistic innovation, won the Best Translated Book Award, and has to date sold over 20,000 copies.

Indeed, both independent publishing and literature in translation have continued to flourish, and we are honoured to be counted alongside so many innovators and risk-takers in having a book shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. It has been a privilege to publish Anakana Schofield’s Martin John, a novel that is virtuosic in the way it makes form and content each work to enhance the other, and we were delighted when we heard it had been shortlisted for this prize.

 

martinjohn

Click on the book cover above to check out what others are saying about Martin John. You may also wish to buy the book.

Book Review: Martin John

martinjohn

Martin John, by Anakana Schofield, takes a challenging subject and presents it in an offbeat style, yet somehow creates a story that draws the reader in to the eponymous protagonist’s strange and disturbing life. It generates more questions than answers but this seems fitting. Martin John is inherently unlikeable. His actions are loathsome yet the author presents his plight in such a way as to engender a degree of sympathy however discomfiting this may feel.

Martin John is a sexual predator. His mother, despairing of his behaviour and determined to minimise the inevitable disgrace in his home town when a young victim threatens legal action, banishes him to London with a stream of invective and instructions designed to prevent him from repeating his misdemeanours. He is to get a job, keep busy, avoid triggering situations, and visit his aunt every week to reassure her that all is as it should be.

Martin John does his best but the temptation to give in to his urges proves hard to resist. He takes on a house when an acquaintance goes to prison, letting out the top room to illegals who are easy to move on. When his nemesis gets past the rules and defenses he has put in place to protect his solitary habits and routines, Martin John’s precarious existence begins to slowly disintegrate.

The background and details are peeled back with a tender precision that is at odds with what is being revealed. The often profane language employed is fitting. Martin John’s predilections are described in gross and graphic detail from the point of view of the perpetrator and are disturbing to consider.

The writing is impressive. There is much repetition but this works in portraying the mindset of a man trying to control the perversions to which he seems addicted. His brushes with authority demonstrate society’s inability to help those such as him, who are widely and vocally disdained.

Knowing a little of what Martin John was about I was surprised by how engaging the book turned out to be. It defied my expectations. An intriguing and rewarding read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, And Other Stories.