L.V. Anderson of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Book publishing doesn't have a reputation for being exciting. But a new nonfiction book about the so-called Golden Age of Publishing is a bona fide page-turner. Boris Kachka's first book, out next month from Simon & Schuster, has a very long title: "Hothouse: The Art Of Survival And The Survival Of Art At America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, And Giroux."
But what if you don't know the difference between FSG and Random House? This isn't just a book for publishing insiders. It's for anyone who wants to know behind-the-scenes gossip about T.S. Eliot, Joan Didion and Susan Sontag.
Kachka gives us a thoroughly researched, compellingly written chronicle of the rise and fall of FSG, with a special focus on founding publisher Roger Straus and editor-in-chief Robert Giroux. Kachka performs a delicate balancing act, compassionately humanizing these publishing giants without lionizing them.
If you have even a casual interest in 20th century literature, you'll love Hothouse’s many anecdotes about the private lives of literary luminaries.
FSG isn't the cultural behemoth it was in the 1950s and ‘60s, but it still values getting smart books out to the public. One of its upcoming offerings, a collection of essays by CUNY professor Wayne Koestenbaum, fits the old-school FSG mold. "My 1980s And Other Essays" is unabashedly intellectual and full of long words that will send you scrambling for a dictionary.
But Koestenbaum is like your favorite college professor, the one who could make you feel that you not only understood a difficult text, but also adored it. Koestenbaum's enthusiasm for Roland Barthes' philosophy and Frank O'Hara's poetry is infectious.
He is not only interested in literature, though: Koestenbaum is an avid consumer and deft critic of film, painting, photography, opera, pop music and miscellaneous cultural details that catch his eye. Koestenbaum is at his effervescent best when he discusses the artists who inspire him, ranging from actress Lana Turner to painter Forrest Bess to Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry.
Read more about these and other titles in the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.