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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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

If ever there was a man who is quotable, it is Clive James, 75, the London critic, poet, TV host and guest, stage personality, novelist, autobiographer—and then some.

He was the subject of a profile titled “A Writer Whose Pen Never Rests, Even Facing Death” by Steven Erlanger in The New York Times.

James is suffering from leukemia, emphysema and kidney failure. He said he could “use up a lifetime supply of anything in two weeks.”

He told the Times, “like all writers who write poems, I would like it most if I were remembered for those—but it might not happen.”

He once compared Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Pumping Iron” to “a brown condom filled with walnuts.”

A recent James book is Unreliable Memoirs. He said, “the Australians and British see it as a vision of Arcadia, although the Americans have never taken to it. They don’t like that word ‘unreliable.’ For the U.S. edition, I should have called it Totally Reliable Memoirs.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“I was born in a large Welsh town at the beginning of the Great War—an ugly, lovely town (or so it was and is to me) . . .”

It seemed only right to let a Dylan Thomas quote help mark the centennial of his birth, October 27, 1914. Cultural institutions in the U.S. and Britain “set the dial to Thomas nonstop, “ wrote William Grimes in The New York Times. In Swansea, his hometown in Wales, there was a Dylathon—36 hours of poems, letters and short stories read by Ian McKellen, Jonathan Pryce and Matthew Rhys. Prince Charles recorded “Fern Hill” for the occasion. A week-long festival was held in London.

In New York, the Poetry Center opened “Dylan Thomas in America: A Centennial Exhibition.” Thomas’s radio play “Under Milk Wood” was presented here and broadcast live in Wales. Actor Michael Sheen said, “Thomas is just hard-wired into the Welsh psyche. The poetry is everywhere.”

So let’s give Thomas the last words too: “Now I am a man no more no more/And a black reward for a roaring life.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“A handful of new studies,” The New York Times reported on Page 1 last Tuesday, “suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.”

“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child, said pediatrician Pamela High. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”

The Times quoted from a study presented at the White House last week that stressed the power of that engagement. “The quality of the communication between children and their parents and caregivers, the researchers say, is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears.”

Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor and lead author of the study said, “It’s not about shoving words in. It’s about having these clued conversations around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using the banana as a phone. That is the stuff from which language is made.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

About 40 mystery writers and would-be mystery writers showed up at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, where Herman Melville and other notables are buried. The writers spent a day touring graves and a mausoleum. They heard from a man who works for a company that builds crematories. James Barron went along to cover the event for The New York Times.

The idea for this day of background research came from Linda Fairstein, author of Bad Blood and a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Her great grandparents were buried at Woodlawn, and she had visited the place as a child.

Lawrence Block, a writer of bestselling mysteries, noted on Twitter: “At Woodlawn Cemetery. Need men’s room or grave of someone we don’t like.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist and prolific writer, is the author of a new book, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

In an interview with Scientific American, Pinker said, “The main difference between good writing and turgid mush—academese, corporatese, and so on—is that good writing is a window on the world. The writer narrates an ongoing series of events which the reader can see for himself, if only he is given an unobstructed view.”

Scientific American said of The Thinking Person’s Guide that Pinker “shows readers how to take apart a piece of fine writing to see what makes it tick.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The lives of real-life writers are being turned into fiction. Novelist Thomas Mallon, author of Fellow Travelers and, most recently, of Watergate: A Novel, wrote in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, “This territory seems to be expanding of late.”

Mallon lists Colm Toibin’s The Master (about Henry James), Jay Parini’s The Passages of H. M. (about Herman Melville), David Lodge’s A Man of Parts (H.G. Wells) and the newly published Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut, based on the life of E.M. Forster.

“In Arctic Summer,” writes Mallon, readers “will find a narrative voice reminiscent of Forster’s own calm, percipient one. Galgut depicts the novelist participating in ‘buttoned-down conversation about books and travel and opera and architecture’ all the while unable to ‘keep his gaze from sliding sideways, to the figure of the servant who bent in to clear the plates.’”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“Writers are starting to realize that in predicting the future, they have actually helped shape it,” wrote Nick Bilton in The New York Times. He suggested that some sci-fi writers may have contributed “to dark advances in technology.”

H. G. Wells first wrote about atomic bombs in 1914. George Orwell predicted an N.S.A.-like surveillance state. “And writers have been envisioning incredibly destructive weapons of all shapes and sizes, for centuries,” Bilton said.

Back in 2011, Arizona State University president Michael Crow challenged Neal Stephenson, the author of several sci-fi novels, to stop writing dystopian stories and offer ideas with a brighter outlook.

Last week, the university released Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future. There are no dark stories. Co-editor Kathryn Cramer told the Times, “We’re hoping to show that there are a lot of things we can do better.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row