A Different Kind of Publisher: Brian reviews Other Press

I’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s worth mentioning again: I judge books by their spine. Meaning, the company that publishes a title can tell me a lot about what I might find inside the book. Finding a new publisher is like finding a new friend. It’s awkward at first, there’s almost too much to learn about each other, but, in the end, the vagaries and missteps can lead to a lifelong partnership that you can’t imagine living without. I was recently introduced to Other Press by a friend of mine, and I’m quickly forming a strong attachment.

For an entertaining, if not a bit too artsy, introduction to Other Press, check out their YouTube video. In that video you’ll hear authors reading from their works, and the incredible Judith Gurewich explaining what she expects from those authors. Gurewich is the driving force behind Other Press’s successful move from psychoanalytic academic printings to becoming one of the great publishers of world literature in the US. A Lacanian analyst, Gurewich still takes patients, but most of her time is spent publishing highly literate, highly challenging works that don’t always please the market, but always challenge the reading public.

The first Other Press title I read was The Glass Room by Simon Mawer. An epic European family drama that begins with the birth of Modern Architecture, travels through the displacement of WWII, and comes out at the other end bruised, tainted, and returning home. An incredible book for any book group to read, and, even though there’s a lot going on in Mawer’s novel, it never gets too far away from the fact that large-scale movements and tragedies happen to collections of individuals, and those individuals fall in and out of love, have babies, and build amazing houses for complex lives. I don’t know of another novel that has told this story. Very unique.

Last week I picked up another book by my new favorite press, Miklos Vamos’s The Book of Fathers, which is translated from the Hungarian by Peter Sherwood. A celebrated Hungarian writer, Vamos’s novel spans many generations of the Csillag family, encompassing an impressive amount of European history, the book is served up in a style that perfectly blends familiar folklore with disjointed realism. I can’t wait to finish the nearly 400 years of story this book captures, and I think you should come by the store, pick up a copy, and join me on my trip. I’m desperate to talk to someone about this book.

Thanks Liz for introducing me to Other Press. Their books are very cool.

–Brian Contine

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