Malvern Books Founder Joe W. Bratcher III Dies
Publisher and bookseller shaped Austin's literary scene
By Richard Whittaker,
5:45PM, Mon. Aug. 1, 2022
A sad day for Austin's literary community: the family of Joe W. Bratcher III – publisher, filmmaker, and cofounder of Malvern Books – has announced that he died on July 28 at the age of 64 from complications from Covid.
A native Austinite and graduate of UT Austin, Bratcher (and his wife, Elzbieta Szoka) cofounded and then relocated to Manhattan the company Host Publications and its signature publication: literary journal The Dirty Goat. As reported by Michael Agresta ("Get Your Goat," Jan. 11, 2008), Bratcher described Host as "a very independent-minded company. ... My idea was just to put material out there so that people could experience it."
Bratcher had relocated to New York to become an educator, first at City College of New York and then at Marymount Manhattan College. However, Austin, and its formative effect on his approach to literature and creativity, remained a constant in his life. Bratcher said, "I moved away from Austin in 1995. When I go back, Austin has changed a lot, but I'm holding on to this ideal Austin that I grew up in, in the 1960s, when it was a small town and you could do intellectually interesting things there and there would be people who would just be curious about what was going on and what you were doing."
The connection remained strong: Even though Host's corporate offices were in New York, the publishing house retained an Austin presence with a fulfillment office on East Seventh. He was also a part of the indie film scene, executive-producing 2009's Welcome to Academia after the Texas-set-and-shot Screen Door Jesus in 2003 (adapted from the short story anthology of the same name, written by Christopher Cook and published by Host).
Bratcher finally made that connection to the ATX concrete in 2010: he worked to inspire that same Austin-born culture of interest without borders in new readers when he moved back to Texas and opened Malvern Books. Located just north of the UT campus, its emphasis on readings, poetry, translations, and experimental literature earned it a particular place in Austin's literary scene, all under the watchful eye of Bratcher.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to adamsmusichouse.org, a space dedicated to the teaching and appreciation of classical piano music founded by Bratcher.