Hello and welcome to Back to the Wall Publishing.
I am an indie publisher based in the north east of England. I am interested in a kind of writing that as Kafka said, ‘serves an axe for the frozen sea within us.’ I’m not above enjoying a good read, (see Hodburn Wood) and there are plenty of accomplished authors providing that service, but writers that break through the frozen waste lands of experience are rare and often go unread and unrecognised.
Why this is so, is a difficult question to answer. A literary agent once said to me that a book buying customer (not reader) is purchasing 8 or 10 hours of entertainment when he or she buys a book. Fair enough. But it was clear that by ‘entertainment’ he meant escape. He was purposefully stripping away the cultural meanings associated with ‘the book’ as source of thoughtful provocation, even wisdom, in favour of ‘book’ as commodity to be consumed, digested and evacuated in order to repeat the cycle. Again fair enough, we live in a consumer society. We are all producing, exchanging and consuming. Unable to sit still in Pascal’s room, we must chatter. We chatter so much the very idea of sitting still horrifies – the very idea that the meanings we wrap ourselves in might unravel, horrifies, and so I suppose, the axe wielding writer horrifies.
For a lot of people who read books, it is about entertainment, they want a good story that they can believe in, that seems real and grips their imagination. The trouble is these stories are wrought from language, a language which only works because it is highly conventional and like all conventions is liable to freeze over, to appear as commonsense ‘reality’ unless we are reminded that the stories, the people, the world we read about are in fact only a version of the ‘real’. And one way of reminding ourselves is to read stories that use language in an unusual way, ways that make us think and challenge the world icing up around us. That doesn’t mean I’m only interested in avant-garde. I love Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall as much as Tom Mcarthy’s Remainder, Vassily Grossman’s Life and Fate as much as David Foster Wallace’s Hideous Men – all these writers share an ability to penetrate the surface of things and make you think.