-Reviewed by Rory O’Sullivan-
If you haven’t yet come across them, I would recommend seeing what Little Episodes Publishing are up to: an edgy but humble bunch bent on giving aspiring writers a glimmer of hope in an unforgiving industry.
The latest from the Samaritans of the British literary scene is All the King’s Horses (An Expression of Depression, Volume 3).
It is a dark and sobering anthology of poetry, free prose and screenplay that pulls no punches in its exploration of mental struggle and portrayal of the human temperament:
A bride attempting to drown herself in an ornate bath on her wedding night; a young boy continually raped by a local priest; an immigrant birthday boy making haste from Deptford to Putney in a race to score heroine; the graphic lament of a girl documenting the life of her young brother having just been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
To what purpose this outrageous gravity? Well, understanding Little Episodes’ mission statement is key to understanding why a collection such as this needs to be so bold and why it must exist.
There are plenty of journals and arty groups out there who profess the difficulties of breaking into the literary industry and attempt to alleviate those boundaries in order to lever budding talent. Little Episodes seem no different, but with All the King’s Horses they are coronating a particular breed of this talent: the mentally afflicted.
Nothing seems to stand in the way of co-founder Lucie Barât’s ambition to give a voice to those with mental suffering. She says, in the Mission Statement that serves as a refrain to this collection, that she hopes to “de-stigmatise depression and promote compassion and understanding rather than fear and embarrassment”.
Whether or not such a dream will be realised, we really can’t say, but we have here a work featuring writers who would remain unknown were it not for Little Episodes’ charitable outlook.
More importantly, Little Episodes’ benevolent work is not an exercise in positive discrimination but, rather, it forces acknowledgement of the fact that mental imperfection is often the root of creative ingenuity and expression.
As Bob Dylan once said, “a contented man is a boring man”. Artistic expression is so often borne out of mental suffering or a response to struggles tied up in childhood, bereavement or unstable, oppressive living which can all affect the human subconscious.
Little Episodes Publishing aren’t a company that just bitch about the industry, in the same way that All the King’s Horses is not a collection of sob-stories to get the mentally-afflicted a sympathy vote. On evidence of the suffering documented (for the writer as much as any character) – and, believe me, there is a lot of suffering – I feel that this collection is as good an opportunity as any for us to step back and locate what it is in our minds that urges us to put pen to paper.