Spencer Madsen’s Sorry House: The One-Man Publishing House
BY: ANNA NOLAN | ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF SPENCER MADSEN
It can be hard to make time to sit down and read an entire book. Maybe because it’s easier to do something more passive, like watching something terrible or taking a nap. Maybe it’s that our shortening attention span keeps us reading tweets instead. Even so, Spencer Madsen hasn’t lost hope for physical books, which is why in 2012 he founded and still single-handedly operates Sorry House, an independent publishing company. “Publishing just seemed like something that was a more concrete expression of creativity that I could depend on,” he said.
When he isn’t at his full-time corporate media job, he is working tirelessly on Sorry House releases in NYC. During the past five years, he’s published five writers: Mira Gonzalez, Victor Vazquez (Kool A.D.), Richard Chiem, Bunny Rogers, as well as his own work. His most recent releases, Cunny Poem Vol. 1 and You Private Person are part of his “Sorry House Classics” series and work against the standard publishing cycle, which discards books after a brief three month promotion period. Current considerations include a second book with Mira filled with female nude drawings and a science fiction novel with a female heroine.
The concept of a writer can seem almost annoying, someone declaring themselves important enough to anticipate filling hours of a stranger’s time with their insights or stories and expecting to be paid for that content, when we can get so much for free. Spencer lives in a reality many times removed from the writer stereotype. He not only detaches himself entirely from any kind of romantic writer imagery, but admits to picking up writing “just because it was this thing that I already knew how to do. I already spoke English. Music making, photography and art all require patience. I’m just bad at things.”
He stands in for a generation living and working in a content-based economy and feeling their words dissipate in fields of vast disinterest. The accessibility of creating can, at times, be as exhausting as it is encouraging. Being yourself online can start to feel like a job and online writing, like disposable thoughts and a supreme excess of content.
Books published under Sorry House create a more permanent home for thoughts that might have otherwise been discarded or hidden in respective content feeds. Spencer recruits his writers from Twitter and encourages them to move their thoughts to the temporary home of a Google doc, where he then assists as editor before the words are packaged into the physical space of the book and shipped by Fat Possum Records.
His writers, himself included, write with no regard for traditional narrative structure. The effect is refreshing, familiar. The disregard for standard rules of capitalization, grammar and narrative structure, leave the books with gaping white spaces under single sentences, entire pages of all caps freestyling, and real ideas tucked just underneath anecdotal fantasy. You feel less alone and also very nice inside yourself reading, as if all you need in the world is for everything to continue existing around you for the rest of your life.
“Sorry House classics is a way of saying, ‘Okay there are already so many books. Surely some of my favorite books are ready for the world again, even though it hasn’t been that long’,” he said. “I see it as a reduce, reuse, recycle for content in general–something I think the industry could do more of–encouraging people to pay attention to the books that are already in the world, instead of just constantly flooding the market with new ones.”
Spencer is fully aware that, through Sorry House, he is contributing to the noise of content overload, which is perhaps why “Sorry House” is such a fitting name. But Sorry House is doing something unique, giving each release a lifetime of promotion and releasing books with care and without deadlines. The collection feels cohesive and lovingly constructed. If you like one Sorry House book, you’ll likely like them all.