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About Us

(The story of Misfit Press is inextricably linked to the story of Misfit Incorporated, which is inextricably linked to the story of AJ and Melissa Leon. These fascinating stories have been told at length on many other occasions – in newspapers, on TEDx stages, during numerous interviews and chance meetings in wine bars. If you want to explore the weird and wonderful company that is Misfit Incorporated, peruse our site. For the full backstory, check out this video interview.)

Misfit Press itself was established in 2014, with the publication of AJ Leon’s The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit. The little-known backstory to The Life & Times is that it was originally slated to be published by a major American publisher, who headhunted AJ after noticing the popularity of his blog, The Pursuit of Everything. About a third of the way through the writing of the book, AJ began to get twitchy about the compromises involved in traditional publishing: uncompromising editorial pressure, a lack of say on issues such as design and artwork. Not long later, AJ bailed on the contract, and decided to publish the book himself. The Misfit team created and ran a Kickstarter, aimed at raising $15,000 to cover publishing costs. By the time the fundraising had run its course, pledges totalled more than treble that amount. With the excess funds, AJ and Misfit decided to go one better than just publishing a book, and also founded a publishing house.

Since its founding, Misfit Press has steadily flourished. In 2015, we took under our wing Wolftree, the finest arts journal in the American Midwest; we released our 2015 Anthology, featuring the finest creative work we encountered over the preceding year; and The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit continued to find readers across the globe. In 2016 we published Destination Shakespeare, the debut poetry collection from esteemed Shakespeare academic Paul Edmondson; and we have more Shakespeare-related publications in the works for 2017, including Shakespeare On The Road, a tale of a Shakespearian adventure across the US.

Last  year was a big growth period for the Press, and there is lots more on the way for 2017. As you’ll see from our Forthcoming Publications section, over the next twelve months we will be publishing Saya Sayama: Three Years in Myanmar by incredible photojournalist Spike Johnson, a photonarrative account documenting a unique moment in Myanmar’s history: the violent shift from General Ne Win’s fifty-year dictatorship to the country’s first steps towards democracy. Also imminent is Tangentially Reading, featuring some of the most insightful, shocking, touching, and hilarious moments from the first 200 episodes of Christopher Ryan’s much-loved podcast, Tangentially Speaking.

These are exciting times at Misfit Press. To keep up to date with everything that’s going on, follow us at our blogFacebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Into the future, we will always continue to work in the fashion we do right now: with authors we like, on projects that matter, in a way that leaves writer, reader and everyone in-between satisfied. We will also never renege on our One-for-One pledge; for every publication we ever sell, a child in India will receive money towards prescription eyeglasses, via the Misfit Foundation.

w: Matt

George Saunders on the Complexities of Kindness, Preparing for Death and Religion

George Saunders on the Complexities of Kindness, Preparing for Death and Religion

George Saunders is an American author best-known for his short stories and essays. In 2013, he released a collection of stories called Tenth of December. The collection is an amazing mix of satirical weirdness and raw emotional heft. Tenth of December won a pile of awards, and catapulted Saunders into a newfound literary fame. (A personal favourite from Tenth of December, “Puppy”, was published in The New Yorker in 2007, and is available to read here.)

Amongst his readers, Saunders – a student of Nyingma Buddhism – is regarded as something of a sage on topics such as compassion, consciousness, and that elusive state called happiness. (Joshua Ferris, in an introduction to one of Saunders’ collections, talked of “the shared acknowledgment among writers that Saunders is somehow a little more than just a writer… [He] writes like something of a saint. He seems in touch with some better being.”) In 2013, Saunders’ Syracuse University commencement address on the subject of kindness “went viral.”

Whatever one’s opinion on Saunders’ supposed saintliness – and he would be the first to call it nonsense – there’s no doubt he has a compelling vision of life, and shares it eloquently. Last week, while idly going about my grocery shopping, I listened to an old episode of the ever-brilliant Longform podcast, featuring a conversation with Saunders from January of 2014. At the very end, Saunders spoke a little on how he understands terms such as “nice” and “kind,” and his thoughts on spirituality and atheism. It was such an insightful couple of minutes that I felt compelled to rewind and listen again. And then to transcribe the whole thing so I might share it. So, without further ado, I give you the wisdom of George Saunders:

“I’m a very nice person, which can be a good thing or a bad thing – it sometimes in my life has been a passivity. But to be a kind person is actually different. Nice and kind aren’t the same. Kindness, if you press that button, there’s a trapdoor that drops you into really deep water, where suddenly you say ‘I wanna be kind.’ Well okay what does that mean? I want to benefit other people. What does that mean? Hmmm. I don’t know.

Coes half the time people who talk a lot about kindness – and when I’ve done it – you know, your tendency is you go into the coffee-shop and somebody’s just a little bit grouchy and you leap over the counter and embrace them – which is not kind, it’s weird, and probably makes it worse.

So anyway, I think kindness is a deep thing. I think it’s kind of a gateway virtue… You know, think about the 20th-century, that big mess; every big fiasco had to do some idiot having an idea, a strong idea of how if you just did this it will eradicate all suffering: you know, we get rid of the Jews, we socialize everything, we do this, we do that.

And the truth is those ideas were never sophisticated enough. The sophisticated ideas are the one that Jesus had and
the Buddha had, which were you have to realize that you’re not the centre of the universe, that you’re in intimate connection with everybody.
Take that.”

A moment later,the Longform interviewers asked Saunders what, on his deathbed, he was going to care about, and what he was going to regret.

“I think you can do work in the time before your death to get ready for it. You know, that’s what spiritual life is about, and the traditions that we all know, that’s what they are about.

“You know when you’re saying goodbye to somebody that you love at the airport, and you get all soft, and you’re like oh my god I didn’t… I hardly knew ya’, you know that kind of feeling… Then on another day you’re just yourself. There’s a big gap between those two people. So my regret would be how much time to I spend in that regular old stupid habitual mindset of taking everything for granted, as opposed to this exalted state of being super-tenderized to the people you care about. And I’m guessing that if there’s a heaven, it’s that at the airport times ten or twenty or a thousand.

So I guess the regret would be you, like a lunkhead, you spent so much time in that normal state – uh, what am I gonna do today, I hope my book’s selling, how do I look?. That mode is habitual but we know from the occasional foray into it that the other mode is possible. So… hurry up, try and get into that higher state while you can.

How do you do it? I don’t know. I’m stupid, I’m a latecomer, but there’s these thousands of years of spiritual traditions that wouldn’t be a bad place to start. And, you know, a lot of times in our culture there’s this de facto humanist swagger that says oh yeah, religion, we used to do that shit, but by advice to anyone who wanted it would be reconfigure your understanding of quote unquote religion, and understand it as that which will give you that airport state of mind more often, and then go into the existing traditions and cull through them to make it that… Coes that’s really what they’re about.”

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MattMatt is Chief Editor at Misfit Press. Alongside overseeing all activity at the Press, he is in the latter stages of a PhD, working on a thesis examining the intersections between literature, neuroscience and the philosophy of consciousness. Soccer, snowboarding, prog metal, Dostoevsky, a good Chianti and strangers' dogs all rank amongst his favourite things.

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E. M. Forster Predicted the Internet, Skype and Climate Change in 1909

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