Thursday, June 28, 2012
One Thousand and One Bytes: In Celebration of Publishing
Today I read a terrific article in the New York Times about Janet Groth, long-time receptionist on the 18th floor of the New Yorker when it was on 43rd Street. I love stories about New Yorker culture, and this one, from 25-year-receptionist turned scholar and author, did not disappoint.
But I was drawn to more than her experiences: just look at what she's wearing in this photo:
This dress, photographed in Greece in what must be the late 1950s-early 1960s looks almost like this one from Tory Burch:
And this home decorating fabric from Amy Butler:
And maybe this ghostly Marni print:
I interviewed at the New Yorker, in its fabled 43rd Street location, around 1997. The position would have been a ridiculous fit--the editor said he'd be unconfortable with a PhD candidate fetching his dry-cleaning (snap!)--and I was too seasoned in my own way for that kind of Devil Wore Prada experience (Devil Drycleaned Prada?). So it didn't work out and the editor jumped ship with Tina Brown anyway, not too much later.
I was reminded of my NY publishing worldview when I was recently given a novel. I can be turned off pretty quickly by certain titles (like this one) and covers (like this one) but decided to give the novel a go because I trust the judgment of the person who gave it to me.
Turns out, this novel, Happily Ever After (eeek!--that title!) by British author Harriet Evans is a very good read about the book publishing worlds of London and New York (Evans has experience). I even invented a literary heritage for Evans: her parents are Sir Harold Evans and Joni Evans (her parents really are in publishing too).
Anyway, the novel's heroine (the far-too-trendily named "Elle"--eeek! again) wants to be the kind of gell who pops into Pret and grabs a takeaway coffee and sandwich for lunch. I wanted to pop into Dean and Deluca for the same.
(I did go to this great little bistro in the mornings between 5th and Mad for its sweet potato muffins dusted in icing sugar. Delicious. At lunchtime the joint was in full swing with serious lunchers who had their expense accounts in tow.)
Back again: the novel is very self-aware of its status as a potential chick-lit book, and of the derisive status that chick-lit has in some minds. So there are smart discussions of cover designs (what makes a novel look literary? What doesn't?); of Bridget Jones' Diary as the original chick-lit text (or is it?); and literary versus "pleasure" reading. Think literary canon vs. personal paracanon--the books that anthologies tell us to read versus the books that we LOVE to read (and there can be crossover).
And what on earth is a detail from that umbrella by London Undercover doing at the top of this post? It reminds me of the gingham umbrella on the cover of Evans' novel, which further recommended the book to me (Despite the shopping bag. I'd have added a satchel instead).
Still awake? Tune in for Scheherazadean story 1002, yet to come.