That we’re hosting a bunch of signings for this little literary concern called the New Yorker this weekend?
Jorge Colombo, author of New York: Finger Paintings by Jorge Colombo
Andy Borowitz, author of The 50 Funniest American Writers*: A Humor Anthology from Mark Twain to The Onion (*according to Andy Borowitz)
T. Coraghessan Boyle, author of When the Killing’s Done
Joyce Carol Oates, author of A Widow’s Story
Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
Calvin Trillin, author of Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin
Dorothy Wickenden, author of Nothing Daunted
Geoff Dyer, author of Otherwise Known as the Human Condition and The Missing of the Somme
Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
Hisham Matar, author of Anatomy of a Disappearance
Richard Dawkins, author of The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True
Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom
Colson Whitehead, author of Zone One
Roz Chast, author of What I Hate: From A to Z
The second installment of Glass’s history of
Barney Rosset’s legendary publishing empire.
[Read Part I here]
Evergreen Review Issue No. 25, Courtesy of Barney Rosset, © Grove Press
“You treat Grove as if it was a real publishing company!”
I’m sitting at a coffee shop in the Farragut neighborhood of Brooklyn with Fred Jordan, Barney Rosset’s right hand man and managing editor of the Evergreen Review throughout the sixties, and his son Ken, publisher of the online magazine Reality Sandwich. I had sent them a draft of the introduction to my book on Grove Press, and they didn’t like it. “If you take a publishing company to be a commercial enterprise, Grove never was,” Fred complains. “It wasn’t a business,” his son interjects, “It was a project driven out of passion, which Barney completely self-identified with.”
If Grove wasn’t a business, what was it? “We just called it Grove. Because it was just its own thing,” Ken replied. Jeanette Seaver had likened it to a family; Morrie Goldfischer had repeatedly used the term “team” to describe Grove’s core group. Nat Sobel told me that Rosset compared the company more specifically to a football team, adding “I’m the quarterback, and I’m calling the signals.” What about a rock band? “It’s more like a band than anything else,” Ken agreed. And then he added, “The relationship was not so much from one person to another. It was one person to Barney, and then Barney to everybody else.” And Sobel confirmed, “If we had any personal relationship, it wasn’t with each other, it was with Barney.”
Dustin has been recommending Gerald Murnane’s Barley Patch to me (and to you, with stickers). It “takes as its subject the reasons an author might abandon fiction—or so he thinks—forever,” or so sayeth the jacket copy. Which sounds a lot like Enrique Vila-Matas’ Bartleby & Co.—both in subject matter and title sound!—so I’ve been recommending that one at Dustin. (This is what booksellers do, by the by, just recommend books at each other’s faces all the time—I promise it’s not insufferable at all.) One has to assume that the Barley/Bartleby convergence is accidental, but one never knows. Or at least one doesn’t remember Barley Patch being mentioned in Bartleby, but one probably wouldn’t if it had, and one hasn’t read Barley Patch, so maybe Bartleby’s mentioned in there and one just doesn’t know.
But thinking about Bartleby had me griping that Vila-Matas’ Never Any End to Paris didn’t get enough attention. I was googling around and found this interview, which somehow I’d missed and is good:
What role has anxiety played in the creation of your works?
When it grows dark we always need someone. This thought, the product of anxiety, only comes to me in the evenings, just when I’m about to end my writerly explorations. By contrast, the day is completely different. As I write I control my anxiety and anguish thanks to the invaluable aid of irony and humor. But every night I am subdued by an anxiety that knows no irony, and I must wait until the next day to rediscover the blend of anguish and humor that characterizes my writing and that generates my style. “The style of happiness,” as some critics have called it.
Anyway, we recommend.
Staffer David just sent this on to us McNJers:
In the heat of the battle against digital encroachment, we can sometimes forget that Amazon isn’t just a faceless algorithm, but actually relies on humans to function. Apparently, Amazon forgets too.
“Beautifully made, surpassingly human, and quietly subversive, The Art of Fielding restores one’s faith in the national pastime—i.e., reading and writing novels.” (Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision )
“Not being a huge fan of the national pastime, I found it easy to resist the urge to pick up this novel, but once I did I gave myself over completely and scarcely paused for meals. Like all successful works of literature The Art of Fielding is an autonomous universe, much like the one we inhabit although somehow more vivid.” (Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and How It Ended)
This anonymous message is referring a tweet I twoted. I said, “I bet if every person who signed the Save St. Mark’s petition bought a book there, rent might be less of an issue.”
Maybe you read this post by Choire Sicha up on the Awl. It explains some of my cynicism, which you’ve misidentified as arrogance. A better explanation is this comment: “I LOVE St Marks. It’s a great place to wander and think about things, and I prefer to browse for books than search online for them. But I haven’t bought a book there in a while. I’m now reading most books on my iPod, because it is much easier to carry around. And e-books are (generally) cheaper.” This is not a joke. I hear things like this all the time. To my face, at the bookstore, from people who are otherwise sane and smart and nice.
I love St. Mark’s. I buy books there regularly—books that I could buy at the store I already work at. I just bought this there. I buy books there regularly because I’m glad that it exists and I want it to continue to exist.
Are there many serious, loyal & book-buying customers that’ve signed that petition? Yes. Do I hope the petition works? Of course. But it’s very easy to “love” a bookstore and sign a petition and feel swell and go buy on Amazon. Bookstores don’t run on love. Not even all-caps LOVE.
For the impatient or those who live to deflate hype, that could mean two quick strikes against this bonus baby [ed note: this is a baseball term, apparently!] of a novel
Harbach, in his first time at bat
But you never stop rooting for these characters, or for Harbach
There’s just quiet confidence in honest storytelling — Harbach is all Derek Jeter, not Alex Rodriguez.
Speaking of Bookforum: You should also read this review of Alex Shakar’s Luminarium by Justin Taylor.
Speaking of seeing Ben Lerner: If you, you American you, absolutely hate things in translation, though honestly that Chefjec book is supposed to be great, you can also catch Lerner at WORD on the 15th.
It’s a home run!
Rookie novelist Chad Harbach
Rookie of the year!
The [baseball player’s name] of novelists
A grand slam of a novel!
A fastball down the middle—and into our hearts
Like the great baseball player Babe Ruth, The Art of Fielding is heavy—and swinging for the fences.
Something something “America’s pastime” something
With the Internet and social media changing the way we live, it’s the bottom of the 9th for the American novel, and Harbach’s Art of Fielding comes in TKTKTK relief pitching &c. &c.
Tip of the baseball cap to Harbach