Along Publisher’s Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

James Laughlin died in 1997. He was a unique figure in literature. He took his inherited millions and founded New Directions. He published Paul Bowles, Henry Miller, Tennessee Williams, Dylan Thomas, Boris Pasternak and many others. My shelves are punctuated with New Directions titles. The jackets, by top designers like Alvin Lustig, are works of art.

Dwight Garner reviewed two books about Laughlin in The New York Times:

Liturchour Is My Beat: A Life of James Laughlin by Ian S. MacNiven, and The Collected Poems of James Laughlin edited by Peter Glassgold.

Garner wrote that “Laughlin was a hard man to know, his charming public face eating into his private one.” Gertrude Stein told Laughlin his poetry was inferior, and he suffered from a bipolar disorder that he inherited along with his fortune. Garner ended the review with: “If there’s a literary heaven I hope Laughlin the publisher is in it. ‘I fear death,’ he wrote a friend, ‘because I can’t recall that Dante mentions any book in hell.’”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Miranda July’s arrival as a first-time novelist made a big splash in The New York Times. The book’s title is The First Bad Man and publication date is January 13. July, 40, lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two-year-old son. She is an artist, an actor, screenwriter, film director and author of a book of stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007).

She was the subject of a major article on the front of the Times’s Art section last Friday and the “By the Book” interview in Sunday’s Book Review. On Friday it was revealed that she is planning a large-scale work of art for exhibition in London next year. She said, “What’s most comfortable for me is to know that the next thing I’m going to do is completely different. That’s my security blanket.”

In the Review, she was asked what drew her to the work of Lydia Davis, Steven Millhauser and Amy Hempel. July said, “They are liberating writers, writers who make you feel like you can write (even if you can’t really). They seem to show seams, process, unfinished thoughts, and that gives dignity to one’s own imperfections. One starts to feel that if her imperfections are perfect, then maybe mine are too.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

Alex Clark, a literary critic, wrote about “the most eagerly awaited fiction in 2015” in The Guardian.

Among the notable books due early in the year are Jane Smiley’s Early Warning and Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread in February. In March will be Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border is due in April, and May is publication month for Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins.

John Williams added to this list in the January 4 New York Times Book Review. He noted that Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child is due in April, Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno in September, and Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night in November. (Haruf died last month at 71.)

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The New York Times Book Review devoted last Sunday’s edition to “spiritual matters.” Writers were asked to recommend novels with religious themes.

Poet Christian Wiman suggested Fanny Howe’s Indivisible. He said, “Any real faith includes, rather than simply refutes, atheism.” This “brilliant novel . . . gives as stark and marvelous a rendering of this truth as any book I know.”

Novelist Christopher Beha named Evelyn Waugh’s The Sword of Honor trilogy. Beha said it is Waugh’s “most explicitly religious” work.”

Cynthia Ozick named The Second Scroll by Canadian poet A. M. Klein. Ozick said, “Think not of Roth but Blake.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure was edited by C.D. Rose and reviewed in The Wall Street Journal by Dave Shiflett.

“Among the many types of failure that life has to offer,” Shiflett wrote, “literary failure ranks among the most devastating. It is sometimes even more painful than romantic rejection, which may simply be the result of mundane factors (crossed eyes, a small income). Literary failure, however, is a thing of the soul, made all the more toxic when it comes at the hands of that confederacy of Precious, Insular, Sanctimonious, Smug and often Young (work out the acronym for yourself) writing program grads who seem to rule the literary roost.”

Shiflett quotes from the dictionary: “The power of writing is one of the greatest things we have, whether it is read or not. I was there, I saw.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Jeffery Deaver’s latest mystery is The Starling Project. He has published 35 novels and sold 40 million copies of them, but this new “book” is coming out as an audiobook only. In a Page 1 article, The New York Times said, “If Mr. Deaver’s readers want the story they’ll have to listen to it.”

Deaver said, “My fans are quite loyal. If they hear I’ve done this and that it’s a thriller, I think they’ll come to it.” He told the Times that he hadn’t had a clue about how to write a sex scene for audio. “Do we have a zipper sound? Two shoes hitting the floor?” They went with swelling music.

There are no plans to have a printed version of the book. Deaver said, “There are so many time-wasting alternatives to reading out there, and authors are up against formidable competition. . . This is an easier way for people to get access to good storytelling.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The name of an author I hadn’t thought of in years turned up in an essay in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. Several of her books ran as serials in The Saturday Evening Post. My mother read the installments out loud to the family, No better way to end a day has ever been invented.

The writer was Helen Macinnes and one of her most famous titles is Above Suspicion, a spy thriller. She was the subject of the Review’s article by Sarah Weinman, editor of Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense.

Something Macinnes wrote 70 years ago was quoted: “Nowadays the word Communist or Fascist rouses the same emotions as Protestant and Catholic once caused. If these religious factions can learn to live together by giving up all persecution and forms of torture, it is quite possible that a future world will see many forms of political ideology living and working side by side.”

Weinman concluded that “the novels of Helen Macinnes provide the grim lessons we need under the guise of suspenseful entertainments.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Gabrielle Hamilton is a chef, restaurant owner and the author of Prune and Blood, Bones and Butter. In an interview with Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, she said, “The perfectness of reading is when a book hits you and you hit it and during those hours you are completed in a way you have never been before. The you you were when you started the book is no longer; you are changed forever after; you become somehow denser, more solid and yet clearer and cleaner and more organized in your heart and mind at the same time.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

If you visit your editor in her (or his) office, you may soon find that you can no longer shout at her (or him). When she (or he) tells you to cut out those three paragraphs you spent a week on, polishing them to perfection, you must behave.

If all publishers go the Hachette way, your editor will work in a no-privacy cubicle. At Hachette, chief executive Michael Pietsch, has given up his private suite for a six-by-seven-foot cubicle. One of 519 identical cubicles for company employees.

There was room, however, for Jonathan Mahler from The New York Times to sit and interview Pietsch in his new office. The top man told the reporter, “I looked into the future and thought, ‘Are profits going to be easier to come by or harder?’ I think they’re going to be harder. We need to save as much money as we can and still have a nice office.”

Pietsch admitted that he had given himself a window.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“Books about living a happy life have been in vogue for the past two decades,” said PW in an article called “Come on, Get Happy.” But the essay started off with a quote from Euripides, writing in 424 B.C.: “That man is happiest who lives from day to day and asks no more, gaining the simple goodness of life.”

BookScan said that the category was up 12% more than in 2013. PW asked, “Has the happiness market reached the saturation point?”

Happiness Is . . . 500 Things to Be Happy About is a current bestseller by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. One of their 500 moments of happiness occurs when one “recovers data from a dead computer.”

Maybe the happiest of all is the writer whose self-help book lands on the bestseller lists.

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