- Scenes:Verbivoracious Press: An interview with G. N. Forester & M. J. Nicholls
Could you briefly describe your press’s history?
We [press editors G. N. Forester & M. J. Nicholls] formed in 2013 out of a mutual appreciation for neglected British writer Christine Brooke-Rose, whose formally inventive, wondrously punny novels such as Amalgamemnon (1984) we held in high esteem. Our frustration at the mainstream presses for peddling a certain sort of novel, which for ease might we term “middlebrow” (in Curtis White’s sense of the word), also led us to the notion of forming a not-for-profit venue for anti-mainstream works from neglected authors like Brooke-Rose, with a view to publishing new fiction that failed to fit within a conventional publishing model.
How would you characterize the work you publish?
We have chosen the term “exploratory” over “experimental” to avoid the negative meaning in the latter, however, what we publish is similar to like-minded small presses: unconventional, outré, unusual, and challenging fiction. We favour writing with inventive wordplay, a sense of the ludicrous or satirical, and constraint-based fiction in the Oulipian mould. Our first raft of reprints were Brooke-Rose’s four social comedies of manners, conventional in form but rich in wordplay and satire, followed by her collection of stories using her trademark narrative constraints. At present we have focused on forgotten names from the British avant-garde, such as Rayner Heppenstall, Penelope Shuttle and Michael Westlake, but we also plan to release works from Canadian, Russian, and German authors, among others (we recently released Christoph Meckel’s Image for Investigation in translation). Our festschrift series is a biannual publication fêting the work of a particular author who causes us untold pleasure, and is our way of repaying these writers for the wonder their works have brought to the universe. The first festschrift featured Brooke-Rose, and we subsequently published acts of adoration concerning Gilbert Adair (Festschrift Vol. 2) and Rikki Ducornet (Festschrift Vol. 4), while our third volume presented writings on 100 different authors. Our collections of essays, fictions, and homages are shameless acts of literary genuflection.
Who is your audience, and in what ways are you trying to reach them?
The world of exploratory literature is a small but passionate community, and our audience are readers who seek to transcend the mainstream and delve inside more obscure pockets of literary history. A disparate ragbag of writers, academics, obsessive readers, critics, and perpetual students, readers of our books will probably be already familiar with the avant-garde in some form and arrive at our press seeking more opportunities to sate their verbivoracious cravings. Our reprint series intends to keep important neglected works in print, so readers stumbling upon authors like Brooke-Rose for the first time have no trouble tracking down her works. Making oneself heard in the book world is an onerous task, and we shout from the rooftops as often as we can with reviews of our festschrifts or new fiction, however, as a non-profit, our primary concern is serving wonderful literature, so we intend to remain “under the radar,” like many nanopresses of our ilk, because that is the hippest place to be.
What is your role in the publishing scene?
We seek to imitate our publishing heroes—the likes of John Calder, Dalkey Archive Press, FC2, New Directions, and the score of short-lived small presses that have devoted themselves to restoring lost masterpieces to print—and to fight against the tower of babble emerging from larger houses on a weekly basis. Our festschrift series offers those passionate about writers we adore the chance to sing their praises (and publish their own work), and our recent VP Annual offers a place for writers to indulge their fetishes and passions. We publish new fiction that appeals to our sensibilities and might otherwise have struggled to find a place within the aesthetic of other presses, most recently Jeff Bursey’s wonderful second novel Mirrors on which Dust has Fallen (2015). The print-on-demand model is becoming more popular among smaller presses with niche publications, and means the publisher and author can co-operate on promoting the novels...