Tuesday 6 March 2018


A new publisher that is focused on resurrecting forgotten literature, new translations, and collections of letters, and including two Sylvia Townsend Warner books: it's nice that they want to appeal to me so very specifically. Handheld Press is off to a very strong start.

The first of their book series, the Handheld Classics, bring back forgotten or neglected books that deserve a second chance. Having just finished Una Silberrad's 'Desire', I can say that it's the sort of wonderful novel that Virago Modern Classics used to unearth before their great culling; a New Woman novel of unusual depth and texture.

Forthcoming is the amazing 'Kingdoms of Elfin', the spectacular late-career story collection from Sylvia Townsend Warner.

All the Handheld Classics have an attractive, clean design of a strong central image and lots of white space; the work of Nadja Guggi of Messrs Dash + Dare, with Handheld's editor/manager Kate Macdonald doing the image selection.

There are also the Handheld Research editions, non-fiction books likethe other Townsend Warner book noted above...

..and, excitingly, Handheld Modern, for new books. The first title, still forthcoming, is Danish author  Eddie Thomas Petersen's 'After the Death of Ellen Keldberg'.

This dramatic cover image brings to mind a personal hobbyhorse about nudity on book covers: it's almost invariably sexualised, and almost invariably aimed at men. Books for a general audience, even though mostly read by women, get naked women on the covers to appeal to men. Books marketed at a gay male audience often get naked men on the covers, also to appeal to men. Only romance novels get naked men aimed at women. You almost never see naked, non-sexualised adults on book covers, and a vanishing proportion of those will be images of men. All this is quite odd for such a female-run and -patronised business as publishing, but it's splendid to see Handheld break the trend with this startling and eye-catching design. Read more about it from Kate Macdonald here.