February 13th, 2013 / 1:38 pm
Presses & Web Hype

Spencer Madsen on “Indie” and “Small Press”

Monkeybicycle: What does “indie” or “small press” mean to you? What do you think of such classifications and distinctions?

Spencer Madsen: I immediately think of Roxane Gay. I think of complaints about not enough people reading or not enough people buying books or too many books being published. I think about the word ‘writerly’ and the distinction of being ‘serious’ literature. I think these classifications serve to make reading books more insular and less exciting for people. The word ‘indie’ always evokes for me a kind of club that you have to join to engage with. I’d like to bypass that by avoiding adjectives or the temptation to define the press in a verbal way. I don’t want Sorry House to be At The Forefront of Independent Literature or The Home Of Avant-Garde Poetry. I want it to be a thing like any other thing. A glass of water doesn’t need an about page. It holds water.

Spencer Madsen, from Monkeybicycle interview re his new press, Sorry House

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  1. Nate Knapp

      “A glass of water doesn’t need an about page.” Brilliant.

  2. David Fishkind

      don’t mean to be critical, but i can’t stop thinking about how a glass of water doesn’t hold water. it is just a glass of water. a glass, or, sure, a water glass, holds water. a glass of water is an object its actions include tipping and stuff like that, shattering, or stinking even

  3. spencermadsen

      this is good

  4. Richard Grayson

      Bright Star! Would I were stedfast as thou art!
      Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night,
      And watching, with eternal lids apart,
      Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite […]
      No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable
      Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
      To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
      Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
      Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
      And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

  5. deadgod

      If you want a glass of water, you have either to ask for ‘a glass of water’ in a definitive and verbal way or commit the actions that put a glass of water concretely in your hand (or wherever you want the glass of water).

      In order to get a glass of water purposefully, you pretty much do need its about page, regardless of the glass of water‘s perspective or absence of perspective.

      In the case of something whose definition and qualities are as polymorphous and mutable as “literature”, one might want not to be pinned down verbally with some notional absoluteness or perfection of expression — having put oneself in a position where one can’t qualify or complicate or partly contradict one’s own words.

      But I don’t think it’s an unfair lot to ask of a publisher, what’s your thing? what do you do or want to do as a publisher?

  6. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Is he associating Roxane Gay with these other thoughts, or is this a stream of consciousness sequence in which Roxane is unrelated to the other elements? Because I feel like Roxane in particular is the exact opposite of everything he is describing.

  7. deadgod

      I only know Roxane Gay from here and her blog, but, from this tiny acquaintance, my guess would be that she’d not shy from talking concretely and enjoyably about “indie” and “small press”.

  8. Matt Rowan

      See, and I’d say the world of alt lit is like this description but on speed or whatever their particular drug of choice is, currently. Part of why I’m reluctant to include certain folks, like Roggenbuck, in this category. It’s a lot of positive things, too, but it’s definitely something insular. You don’t fit a particular image / aesthetic (both in your writing and elsewhere) and you’re not likely to fit / get any notice. Just sayin’. Hate to stir the old “alt lit” pot again, but it feels like the elephant in the room here.

  9. Christopher Kelly

      Roxane Gay is probably tied with Beach Sloth as the most inclusive person in the small press/indie/online/alt writing sphere.

  10. Michael Fischer

      I don’t consider Roxane Gay “inclusive” like, say, the author of this blog post, whose entire worldview is shaped by a coterie. Her tastes are varied and diverse and it’s unfair to categorize her as insular. My guess: Madsen mentions Gay because she’s all over the place, sort of like the most recent version of Steve Almond. She does the whole pop writing thing prolifically for several major blogs to promote her work. If a major cultural or political event occurs, you can bet that there will be a Roxane Gay column on it in the next issue of The Rumps, Slate, the WSJ–did I miss one? Massive Twitter following. Has her tentacles in literally every major online literary outlet. Her voice is just out there more than others and it’s consistently there. It’s also strong.

  11. Michael Fischer

      Why was my comment deleted?