Book Biz Gets Novel Treatment in Literary Publisher's Debut

Winnipeg Free Press, July 11, 2015 | Go to article overview

Book Biz Gets Novel Treatment in Literary Publisher's Debut


Jonathan Galassi, president of the New York publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux, has written a first novel about the book business. It documents how much publishing has changed while charting one dedicated editor's fascination with a superstar author.

Galassi has avoided criticism by having Muse published by companies other than his own -- Knopf in the U.S., and HarperCollins in Canada. His novel, as one might expect, contains lots of insider humour and nostalgia for the good old days, but is not without its flaws.

Main protagonist Paul Dukach is an editor who seems destined to rise to the top at Purcell & Stern, "regarded as the smallest, scrappiest and most 'literary' of the 'major' publishers." P&S is forever in competition with Impetus Editions, "considered the largest and most esteemed of the small presses."

Galassi let it be known in an interview that P&S is modelled after Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and P&S president Homer Stern after FSG co-founder Roger Straus. Impetus and its boss Sterling Wainwright are respectively the fictional versions of New Directions and its founder James Laughlin.

Wainwright and Stern are both "spoiled, handsome, charming ladies' men with a nose for writers. You might have thought they'd be natural pals, but you'd have been wrong. They cordially detested each other, and greatly enjoyed doing so."

Stern has assembled an editorial staff that is "a raggle-taggle (bunch) of talented misfits... united in subservient loyalty to their larger-than-life leader."

Most of the novel is from the point of view of one of them, Dukach, who has developed the knack of spotting a promising writer. He has also become fascinated by a famous American poet, Ida Perkins, who is published exclusively by Wainwright's Impetus. Author Galassi, himself a published poet, obviously took great delight in making Ida's volumes of poetry huge international bestsellers, something that never happens in real life. …

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