follow_me_down_0

“Sometimes what you want is to be somewhere you do not belong.”

Kio Stark’s lyrical Follow Me Down (Red Lemonade) is a densely packed novella that wanders the projects of New York City capturing the lives of the people that live there in glorious detail—photographs melting into still life paintings, fingers smudged from handling wet paint that should have been left to dry. Sometimes you get a little dirty when you dig, and sometimes people need to disappear. Our protagonist, Lucy is unwilling and unable to turn her back on a mysterious letter that has been freed from the dead-letter office by unknown forces—a picture inside lost for twenty years, the echo of her long lost brother murmuring in the empty corners of her apartment. We follow Lucy as she tries to get to the bottom of this mystery. She sees the world for all that it is: dangerous and heartbreaking and kind. The characters of her gritty neighborhood streets—the people she sees on the subway as she commutes to her dull job in an office high up in the metal skyscrapers—they are her muse. These people embody her every waking hope and fear. They are her touchstone and lodestone—her dysfunctional adopted family.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
—Karl Marx

One of the first books released by Red Lemonade, the visionary new press brought to life by ex-Soft Skull patriarch Richard Nash, Zazen by Vanessa Veselka is a powerful, political, sometimes humorous, often frightening portrait of a parallel world that lurks in the near future in all of its dystopian glory. Della is caught in an emotional battle, deciding whether or not she should leave the country that is dissolving around her, or help to bring it down faster. Bombs are going off, but capitalism continues unabated. Unsure of what to do, Della starts calling in bomb threats of her own, targeting the companies and locations that offend her the most. When the threats start turning into actual destruction, she questions the her role in these events, the universe wrapping around her, burning martyrs and rat queens shimmering at the edge of her vision.

If you have any interest in publishing, you’ve heard of Richard Nash—you may count yourself among his more than 70,000 Twitter followers . . . which can at times make him seem more like a popular guitarist or actor than, you know, an indie publishing dude.  In fact, giving an account of Richard’s career—most notably his distinguished stint running Soft Skull Press, during which time he transformed it from a small cult-fave to one of the most formidable indie presses in the country—can’t really begin to address what it is about this guy that has the entire publishing world sitting at attention.  By his own admission, he doesn’t tend to be where the big money’s at—Soft Skull had infamous financial difficulties that partially led to its acquisition by Counterpoint (a move that failed to solve the problem), and now Nash is involved in a highly ambitious start-up company, Cursor, at a time when most people are crying Armageddon in terms of the literary economy.  Yet when Nash talks, people listen—perhaps precisely because of the fact that he is one of the few in the publishing industry to embrace change and upheaval with an unbridled enthusiasm rather than with fear.  Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Richard about Cursor’s pioneering “community based” publishing arm, Red Lemonade, which is currently an invitation-only site, not viewable by the general public.  If Nash’s popularity—and enthusiasm for lit-based community—are any indications, however, Red Lemonade will not be under cover for very long, and soon everyone will be talking about its visionary role in the Brave New Publishing World.