Along Publisher’s Row

Along Publisher’s Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“An ambitious young writer can’t simply write: he or she must link, tweet, podcast, and brand.” That advice comes from James Wolcott in the April Vanity Fair.

In his column, Wolcott wrote, “The brandmaster of flash is Malcolm Gladwell, who has parlayed his platform as a social-trends reporter for The New Yorker into a series of popularizing bestsellers (Outliers, The Tipping Point) and princely sums on the speakers’ circuit. His face was planted on the sides of New York buses to publicize his latest book, David and Goliath, a fitting place for the Carrie Bradshaw of Starbucks intellectuals.”

One of Wolcott’s suggestions for becoming a brand: “Learn how to wait until Charlie Rose reaches the end of his question before answering, no matter how dusty long it takes.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

At last, the book business has become the background for a spy thriller. The author is Chris Pavone and the title is The Accident, published last week. His first novel, The Expats (2012), was a bestseller. He lives in Greenwich Village with his wife and twin sons.

“Any setting can be a good setting for a novel,” Pavone, 45, told The New York Times. Husband of a top publishing executive and a former editor himself, Pavone said that he used his experience in writing The Accident.  But in an early draft, he said, “I had thinly veiled versions of real people. I got rid of that.”

Pavone is now on a book tour and has already begun a third novel. This one will be set in the world of travel magazines. He said, “It offers compelling opportunities for a travel-writer protagonist to embark on a secret life of international intrigue.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Like the main character in his novel Grendel, John Gardner (1933-1982) has just about disappeared in the mists of time. For several years he was a major figure in American literature. Now, he and his almost 30 books seem to have vanished.

In addition to being a prolific novelist, critic and reviewer, he was an admired and influential writing teacher, a regular at Breadloaf and a mentor to Raymond Carver. After his death, his lectures were published in On Becoming a Novelist (1983).

In it, he observed: “A poet to practice his art with success, must have an ear for language so finely tuned and persnickety as to seem to the ordinary novelist almost diseased. The short story writer, since the emotional charge of his fiction must reveal itself quickly, has a similar need for compression, though a need less desperate than the poet’s. In the novelist, a hypersensitive ear may occasionally prove a handicap.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

In last week’s orgy of pre-Oscar hype, there was an interesting quote from Steve McQueen, film director of 12 Years a Slave.  McQueen also stages art exhibitions.

He told The New York Times, “I always see art as poetry and filmmaking as a novel, doing the same thing but differently, one abstract and the other one linear.”

Spoken as a man of literature.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Blanche Jennings Thompson was the editor of Silver Pennies (1925), a collection of poems for children. In the preface, she wrote, “If a poem is worthy at all, it isn’t tough—it is frail and exquisite, a mood, a moment of sudden understanding, a cobweb which falls apart at a clumsy touch.”

More quotes about poetry appeared in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review:  “Writing poetry is an unnatural act,” Elizabeth Bishop once wrote. “It takes skill to make it seem natural.” John Keats wrote in an 1818 letter, “If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

In London, The Hatchet Job of the Year Award went to A. A. Gill for his Sunday Times review of Morrissey’s Autobiography. The autobiographer is a British singer and lyricist.

Gill wrote: “This is a book that cries out like one of his maudlin ditties to be edited. . .It is a heavy tome, utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likability.”

Gill also wrote that the book was “a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrheic dullness. . . laughably overwrought and overwritten, a litany of retrospective hurt and score settling.”

The judges said Gill’s review was the “angriest, funniest and most trenchant” book review of the year. It is available on the Omnivore website, and quotes were generous in The Guardian and The New York Times. “Gill’s evisceration of Morrissey has a kind of music of its own,” said The Los Angeles Times.

Gill’s Hatchet Job Award was an ax buried in a book and a year’s supply of potted shrimp.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Someone at The New York Times Book Review must have been shot by Cupid’s arrow. In a roundup just before Valentine’s Day, 20 authors responded to the question, “What can literature tell us about love?”

Eileen Myles, author of Inferno: A Poet’s Novel, wrote: “Literature is love. I think it went like this: drawings in the cave, sounds in the cave, songs in the cave, songs about us. Later, stories about us. Part of what we always did was have sex and fight about it and break each other’s hearts… We love the feel of making the marks as the feelings are rising and falling. Living in literature and love is the best thing there is. You’re always home.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

A select number of New York authors are being paid to appear at book club meetings where their books are on the menu.

Book the Writer was started by novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz last month. The club pays $750. Book the Writer’s cut is $350; the author gets $400. Venues are limited to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Korelitz, the author of Admission (2009) and a recent transplant to Manhattan with her husband, the poet Paul Muldoon, told The New York Times, “Most of us, whether or not we are ‘successful,’ really struggle financially in the city. Also, we’ve reached this point at which we’ve come to assume art should be free, and copyright is under assault, etc., and the bald fact is that the artist has to live, too. So I liked the idea of creating (or at least extending) a new income source for writers.”

Book the Writer authors for hire include Kurt Anderson, A.M. Homes, Zoe Heller, Amy Soln and Alexandra Styron.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

With all the hysterical headlines and TV chatter about the Super Bowl, how about a time out? The game has been around a long time.

Back in 1925, Robert Benchley wrote an essay entitled, “How to Watch Football.” This was before television. To smart guys like Benchley, Prohibition, which began in 1920, was a joke.

Benchley’s suggestion was: “Start drinking from the flask at, let us say, ten o’clock in the morning of the game. If necessary, or rather as soon as necessary, re-fill the flask. Be within calling-distance of a good, soft couch, with an easy pillow for the head. Don’t eat any lunch. Turn the heat on in the room and shut the windows.

“Then when it comes time. . .for the game, you will already have started with Old Grandpa Sandman, on the road to Never-Never Land . . . .You, my little man, will be safe and warm at home, [which] after all, is the place to be on the afternoon of the game.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Ewan Clayton is the author of The Golden Thread: The Story of Writing. He is a Brit, a former monk, a calligrapher and teacher. A reviewer of his book said, “He brings his craftsman’s perspective to his history of the Roman alphabet from its start to its finish.”

In an interview with PW, Clayton said, “Two things [about writing] fascinate me. First, the act of writing itself. Making contact with another surface and then moving across it in a sequence of movements, it’s like a dance or a kind of free-running in a city of letterforms as you surmount the challenges that each new combination of shapes throws at you, and always you keep your flow going. The second thing is what happens to a document after it is written, the activity that surrounds it.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row