Interview with Spencer Madsen

by | Apr 16, 2013 | Features

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Spencer Madsen is the Brooklyn-based writer responsible for the creation of Sorry House, an independent publishing press. He is the author of  ‘a million bears‘ (2011) and has a forthcoming book by Scrambler Books (2013 or 2014). He also runs a generally bleak and entertaining Twitter account with a great following/follower ratio.

Spencer Madsen is OK.

We talk about meritocratic presses, publishing good friends and man tits.


Hi Spencer.

hi sarah


What are you excited about this week in your personal life and what are you excited about this month in literature? Who is exciting to you?

today was good. i spent too much money though. here are things i bought:

– $19.99 stainless steel fry pan (afraid of aluminum & teflon, you know? i said to my brother the other day ‘its time to fear our pots and pans’ because i got around to reading about that stuff and it’s as scary as i thought it would be, i was just procrastinating thinking about it)

old pan vs new pan

old pan vs new pan

-$4 on dumplings. the dumplings are $2 per order. i got two orders because i thought there would be like 4 dumplings per order, but there were 10 dumplings per order. she just kept piling them into the styrofoam tray. it was kind of traumatic. i got an extra fork and shared it with a friend

-$5.50 on a metrocard

went to a philip guston exhibit in midtown. was small but good.

Spencer (left) at the Philip Guston exhibit.

Spencer (left) at the Philip Guston exhibit.

the exhibit was free.

went to a record store and purchased The Virginia EP by the National and Today by Galaxie 500. the two records $38

went to murray’s cheese shop. got some gouda and bread and apple butter and beer with my brother. split the costs, something like $15 each, im not sure.

it’s too much money for me but i just got a check for $87 from my internship so ALL MY PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED.

now im eating a gouda and apple butter sandwich with beer. answering this interview, listening to the national ep. it’s good, it has a lot of my favorite songs by them.


Spencer sent me this picture of his bedroom. Maybe this is where he listened to The National.

it’s not cool to like the national right now, because there are a lot of more interesting bands and they are maybe at some kind of peak. they played the new barclay’s center here in brooklyn, which is an enormous venue, and tickets were like $80 or something insane. they’re really popular. but they’ll be cool again in like 20 years or something, so i decided in the shower yesterday that i’m not going to be abashed about liking them.

feel like there was a second part to this question. not sure if i answered the first part correctly. we good? lets move on


Your publishing house, Sorry House, recently released Mira Gonzalez‘s first book, i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together. What has it been like working with and publishing a close friend, did the experience strengthen your friendship or did it ruin it, are things weird now or are the completely the same, will you continue to publish work you believe in that is being produced by your friends or would you prefer to branch out to people you have no personal relationship with?

wow this is a lot of questions. its all wrapped up in one question, but its deceptive. i dont want to publish people i don’t know. right now i feel zero interest in publishing someone im not already friends with or interested in becoming friends with. most presses (at least) appear to operate on a meritocratic basis. submit something good enough and they’ll publish it (as long as its within their vein, etc) so that’s available to writers, and those writers are available to those presses. sorry house doesn’t work on that meritocratic basis. sorry house is 100% founded on my self-interest. there are writers i like. among those writers are ones who don’t have books. because i like them, i want their books. it’s a simple problem with a really time consuming solution: start a press and publish those books.

did i answer the question, there were so many.

oh yeah. so yeah. i wouldn’t publish anyone i didn’t want to be friends with, if i wasn’t friends with them already.

and as for mira, right, it was really good, i think, working with her. because we were friends we weren’t afraid to tell each other when we disagreed. we had the kind of trust you can only have among friends that even if you say ‘no that idea is shitty’ your relationship won’t become irreparably uncomfortable. that trust, the kind that allows for total honesty, made editing a seamless process. i gave her final say on all changes, as a rule, and so if i suggested something and she disagreed, i’d make my case, and then if she was still opposed to it, i’d just drop it and probably say something like ‘fine, have your shitty book the way you want it.’ it was fun. her book went through about three hard edits, then some final edits at the last moment, the day before sending it to print. there’s a poem near the end called “what i think about when i think about the zombie apocalypse” that was originally a full length poem, but now just says “i would kill myself immediately.” that kinda thing was fun to just slash out at final hour. i wouldn’tve been able to suggest that to someone whom i work with in a purely professional context. yeah. okay. we good? gonna keep going.


If you could apologize to your younger self about one thing that you’ve done as an adult, what would it be?

i’m sorry you were so insecure about your man tits sophomore year.


You’ve changed the lives of almost 200,000 people with your sad cat poem.

sad cat poem

Spencer’s sad cat poem

On the Huffington Post article that features the poem, a woman who lost her husband 2 years ago recalled the time that the neighborhood cat comforted her and how it has stayed with her ‘ever since’. This is very touching. If I arranged a meeting, what would you like to spend the day doing with this widow?

i’d flake on that meeting


Why write?

the real question is ‘why bother’

there isn’t a real answer though


Thanks Spencer.

no hey thank you.


The next day, Spencer emailed me this appendix/post script:

can you add, as an appendix or post script or footnote or whatever that i also spent $8.99 on generic-brand cvs pore strips, the things that you put on your face then peel off. i’ve never used them but i like the idea of pulling shit out of my face. i also bought my first toenail clipper. was a double deluxe set for $2. toenail clippers have always seemed like a luxury to me. i’d think of getting one when my toenails get long and then think ‘i can’t afford that’ even though i buy records and nice food and stuff. it just seemed like a non essential, i don’t know. but my toenail got so long it was hurting in my shoe, pressured against the top part of the shoe, so i buckled and bought one. double deluxe set. two dollars.

Sure can.
And if that wasn’t enough, here are two more pictures Spencer sent me of his apartment. Seems neat.

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