Clare speaks to The Publishing Profile about her unconventional journey into publishing and why everyone should read Patricia Grace.
How did you get into publishing?
It was a bit of an accident, I’m afraid. I did an undergrad and a masters in Comparative Literature and when I realised that I didn’t actually want to do a PhD, I did an internship that luckily got me my first job in publishing. I interned at Duckworth which was perfect because it was so small. I did a publicity internship and then got my first job at I.B. Tauris in marketing and publicity. So I just sort of fell in where I was meant to be.
Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?
Oh absolutely! I studied Comparative Literature and have always been interested in fictions which decolonise, which seek to represent a non-European narrative structure. However, my first job was for a non-fiction, academic publisher and as a result, I read a lot more non-fiction now. I am more interested in explicitly sociological and political books than I was before starting.
What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?
I read a lot from the library, to be honest, I’m not a great book buyer as I tend to get what I want from there, and I have limited space in my flat for new books. I depend a lot on borrowing from friends as well. The best thing about the library is that I can get audiobooks, which I love, and not use Amazon, which I hate. I hate hardbacks, they are difficult to carry around and I have tiny hands. I’ve gone through phases of using a kindle but my ideal is a paperback, for sure.
Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?
While at Fitzcarraldo, I have been most proud of Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin. I’ve never read anything quite like it. It’s a series of five essays by the Australian journalist, but her particular style of writing is so singular. She investigates trauma, especially the trauma of the Holocaust and of migration. As for 3 of Cups, I’m most proud of On Anxiety, because it was the first and also the book that started it all. It also has stood the test of time and is our most popular anthology.
What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to?
I am mostly at home, and therefore return to, narratives by people who are most like me. I do try and challenge myself, but if I’m looking for something to feel at home in I go to Ali Smith and Rachel Cusk. White Lady literature, as I call it. I think it’s literary fiction though, in most cases. I read and re-read Janet Frame, Katherine Mansfield, Jean Rhys, Deborah Levy and Patricia Grace. I’m interested in the unsettling sensation of being at home in a world that isn’t what you quite expected. So often, with the exception of [Patricia] Grace, books by women in which not much happens but entire worlds fracture and collapse. I also love American writers like Carson McCullers and Patricia Highsmith. A similar unhomeliness dominates a lot of their fiction. A bit weird to say I feel most at home when I’m in a space that is unhomely but there you go!
Where do you buy or access your books?
If I buy books, it’s from independents like Pages of Hackney, Burley Fisher, the London Review Bookshop and Review in Peckham. During lockdown, I did go a bit wild and ordered from loads of indies across the country who were able to ship.
What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?
None! I’ve moved countries a few times and I have little attachment to my books. But I did keep a copy of Toad of Toad Hall that was my granddad’s and also his copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
What’s the most beautiful book you own?
I have Anne Carson’s Float, which is gorgeous. It is a box containing pamphlets that make up the collection, as opposed to a traditionally bound book. I also have a poetry book of Janet Frame’s called The Pocket Mirror which I love. It was published by Pegasus and has the most beautiful cover and paper. It's just a really beautiful object.
Who is your most read author, and why?
If I can include my studies then it is Patricia Grace and Janet Frame, because, well, I wrote dissertations on them! I think Carson McCullers or Katherine Mansfield otherwise. They were both obsessions of mine when I was a bit younger and when I first moved to London, they offered a strange comfort. I’m half American, half Kiwi and I was looking for a home. They also still fit into my requirements for perfect writing. Writing that says a lot with seemingly very few words.
What surprises you about your shelves? Is there a book you own that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
Citizen by Claudia Rankine surprised me. I don’t think of myself as someone who *gets* poetry, but I revisit Citizen all the time. I also loved and will keep for as long as possible, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara which surprised me because I’ve never read true crime (well, except for In Cold Blood) and I have no intention of reading another true crime book. But it was exactly what true crime should be.
What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?
Published in 2019, but will probably stay my favourite book, is Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Really ashamed that it took her deservedly winning the Booker to discover her but it was certainly worth the wait. I plan to read everything the library has when it opens. I also loved Boy Parts by Eliza Clark (Influx Press), Tiny Moons by Nina Mingya Powles (The Emma Press) and Tennis Lessons by Susannah Dickey (Doubleday) which are 2020 releases. I’m also half-way through Lola Olufemi’s Feminism Interrupted (Pluto.)
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?
I have already started these but Rebecca Tamás’s essay collection Strangers, out with Makina press in October, Naomi Booth’s Exit Management out with Dead Ink in September and The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta which is already out with Hodder’s Children, but I only just ordered it so I’m pretending it’s a 2020 title!
Which book should everyone read?
Potiki by Patricia Grace. Politically it is so important to recognise the way violent colonisation still robs people of their homelands, but also stylistically it is so beautifully written, conceived of and presented. You’d have to have no heart to not be moved by it.