A Quartet of Unsalable Gems: Madras Press Debuts Series One
A modern eco-fable about an almost-royal swan and just-a-common-bluebird couple whose lives intersect with a miner and a logger who turn away from their destructive careers… a contemporary fairy tale about a witch with one heck of a sweet tooth, her vampire boyfriend whom she turns into a chocolate housecat, and her ultimate date with Death who has a shoe fetish worth dying for… a bitingly clever story about a Manhattan dinner party populated by a pregnant couple, a cheating couple, childhood best friends, an editor waiting for the latest Salman Rushdie manuscript, an adventure author – and the nonpresent presence of the impossibly gorgeous mistress Lakshmi (coincidentally – or not – Rushdie’s real-life ex-wife is the impossibly gorgeous Padma Lakshmi) … an eavesdropping session that cryptically reveals a conversation between lovers on opposite sides of the earth with one half eating more than his fair share of the toothsome bread pudding while the other half attempts to tell him of her faraway adventures which has somehow landed her in a hospital bed all because of a hidden, biting caterpillar…
Admit it: Aren’t you intrigued? Wouldn’t you want to read more, more, more?
Who would have thought such enticing tales – not quite short stories, not quite long enough to be novels – would be considered unpublishable? But that’s exactly what Sumanth Prabhaker, the 26-year-old, creative writing degreed publisher of brand-new Madras Press, who moonlights by day as a book production manager at Pearson, realized when he thought about submitting his own pieces for publication. And being energetic, talented, and not-so-ready-to-take no for an answer, Prabhaker began his own press, right out of his Boston living room. Released in sets of four, Prabhaker’s 5”x5” pocket-sized little gems make for perfect reading on the go. Series One, which includes Aimee Bender’s eco-fable The Third Elevator, Trinie Dalton’s witchy Sweet Home, Rebecca Lee’s dining Bobcat, and Prabhaker’s own eavesdropping A Mere Pittance, starts shipping December 1.
Besides offering such an enjoyably portable new reading experience, Prabhaker is also a socially-conscious 21st-century literary renegade: Madras Press distributes all its net proceeds to a growing list of charitable organizations chosen by its authors. It’s all about the love of literature, nothing about making a fast buck, or even a penny, for that matter. Bender gives to InsideOUT Writers, which offers writing classes to students in Los Angeles’s Juvenile Hall System; Dalton chose the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants, a California native plant nursery; Lee chose Riverkeeper, an environmental neighborhood watch program that defends our waterways; and Prabhaker chose Helping Hands: Monkey Hands for the Disabled, which trains capuchin monkeys to help people with quadriplegia and other severe spinal cord injuries with daily activities. Bookslut interviewed author and publisher Sumanth Prabhaker about the genesis, and future, of Madras Press.
Hey, wait: If I’m remembering my Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts correctly, doesn’t Prabhaker mean “light”? Could you be more aptly named?
I just looked it up in an online baby name website, and it said it means “one that gives light.” But then I looked up my brother’s name and it said it means “lamp,” and my mom’s name apparently connotes a light shade of yellow, so maybe it’s just a recurring theme in Indian names.
Or maybe your family is just more enlightened! And since we’re talking names, why Madras Press?
My dad grew up in Madras [now Chennai, India], and my mom’s parents live there for part of the year, so the few times I’ve traveled to India have mostly been there. I’ve only been there five or six times, but I really love it — the economy is so much simpler, and someone can support a family selling fruit on the street or making limeade or something. Near my grandmother’s house is a little shack on the street where you take any clothes that need alteration, and there’s an old lady in the shack who sews them up for you; on the other side of the street there used to be a little lending library, where you give them an empty bottle as a deposit. My first memories of reading are of walking barefoot across the dirt street and exchanging a Coke bottle for a stack of Tintin comics. Despite the transformation of the city into an IT hub, and despite the immense poverty, the Indian economy rewards one’s attention to detail more than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Everything is a little smaller there, and a little more focused, and so it seemed like a fitting name for this project – tiny books of shorter stories at low prices to help little organizations. …[click here for more]
Tidbit: Growing up oh so strictly Catholic (still recovering in my old age) makes me even more delighted to announce that I have now officially made my very liberating Bookslut debut with the brand-new December issue! Whoo wheee!