Push your shoulders and hands under the surface of the water.
Who: Inside the Castle
Where: Lawrence, Kansas What: Independent press
Can you tell us a bit about how your press got started?
I started it to publish my own book, Plats, that could not find a home elsewhere, but with the expectation of it serving as a beachhead for further works with a similar textual project, who likewise might not have a proper and consistent outlet.
How did the name come about?
It is a Kafka thing. The books I love are things whose contents exist as material extensions of the physical world they exist in, rather than attempts to capture tiny worlds within them. I think the castle of Kafka's book, for all its mystery, contains simply a place, materially no different than the town surrounding it, hence our motto, "Behind the facade, more of the same." It turns out the most seemingly mysterious books are those most at home in the concurrent fabric of our world. People find “difficult” reading abusive or alienating. I want to showcase the readerly liberation of this type of work and the personal courage and inquisitiveness engendered from reading it. No one stops to think how alien and silly it is to sit and stare into the perverted reflection of a pat narrative or phony contraption of a story. Being bound by a tale of false naturalism is abusive. M Kitchell, whose book Hour of the Wolf we published, said, "Having a hard time understanding, because the text doesn’t resemble a normal text, is an experience of disorientation. To experience disorientation from a text is a level of affect that can expand the space of the text itself." I want to let people into the castle; I want its space to swell out and envelope them and there is nothing but the castle and everything is new and powerful.
What types of publications do you put out?
Simply: books that know they are books. I am not interested in stories or characters. That type of work has enough homes. I look for books that simply exist, as books. I describe it as literature in the expanded field, after Rosalind Krauss. To be this they typically are aberrant linguistically, formally, or just otherwise heterogenous or unclassifiable. The thinking is very much in the tradition of some of the outer limits of the Nouveau Roman movement, especially Michel Butor and his post-novel work. I take to the extreme Umberto Eco's discussion of the open work, looking for books that are the equivalent of his chalk frame drawn around a crack in the wall. The best book is apparent as a book but is truly a continuation of the surface of the desk, or the quilt, or the grass in the park.
Can you tell us a bit about the space where you run your whole operation from? Is it an office space, a kitchen-table/bedroom operation or just from inside a smart-phone or a laptop?
Rent is cheap in Kansas. I have an office in my house. It contains an old chemistry classroom desk, a drafting table, and a cat-shredded armchair. I also work out-and-about as much as I can stand seeing people's animate bodies.
Can you tell us a little bit about the city in which you are based and what influence, if any, it has on your press?
I have only lived in Lawrence for five years but it is where I started Inside the Castle. Apart from some chunks in Los Angeles and Oregon, most of my adult life was spent in Atlanta. Lawrence is ridiculously small comparatively, so I think that being in such a shrunken environment, and having to start from scratch in middle-life, gave me a naive sense of confidence that has extended into my expectations for the larger community of independent literature. I think the relative cultural isolation of being here makes it easier. Compared to living in Brooklyn or something, it is less obvious that I am failing. As far as anything else, Burroughs retired and died here, but I don't feel interlaced with any kind of literary community here.
Do you see any commonality with the world of independent record labels and independent presses? I suppose we’re thinking about how the two things share an independent spirit, small run fanzines/photocopied magazines, merchandising etc?
I came up in the DIY punk scene of the mid-90s. I put out records, had shows at my house, and published zines because making something from nothing, "for the kids," was a way to stand against the commodification of culture. I still have a very strong commitment to that spirit, especially in focusing on works that would have no earthly place in the popular sphere. The gravity of modern culture is upwards. Corporate music and literature and cinema inherit from the risks taken by those below them. But, I could not care less about upward momentum. Self-satisfaction and success bother me.
These days every writer can get connected to their own social-media channels and promote and publish their own work, what do you see as the best role for the independent publisher now? Or do you think not that much has changed?
The fact that Inside the Castle's first book was my own, I have a good sense of how embarrassing, and grueling, and demoralizing it is to promote your own work. I think the role of a small publisher or record label or what-have-you is to be just as thrilled about the work they are releasing as if it were their own. Not to fully shoulder the burden, but to ratify the product as a more autonomous entity, a black box of adulation. It probably doesn't need to be said, but I rarely meet people in real life who share the same expectations and interests as me in literature, so I think the presence of a relay point like a publisher can serve as a way for people to "meet" each other in ways that they might not be able to on their own.
Finally, please tell us a bit about a few of the next things that are due to come out?
A novella by Grant Maierhofer called Gag is coming out April 1. The next officially announced title is Noirmania by JoAnna Novak in winter 2018. It is a book-length poem concerning the paraphernalia of modern death. Another publication will precede that book—I would call a textual archaeology—but it hasn't been formally announced yet. I am always looking for more work to be excited about.