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Friday, July 10, 2015

Hothouse / B. Kachka

Some ripe comments from authors in the Farrar, Straus & Giroux "stable," as reported by Russian emigré magazine editor and journalist Kachka in his insider history of FSG:

Kerouac to Giroux anent the scroll of On the Road: "The hell with editing! Not one word is to be changed. This book was dictated to me by the Holy Ghost!"

Tom Wolfe to editor H. Robbins touching The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test: "I intend to dazzle, startle, delight--and win on every level. I can do things no other writer can do or has ever done."

Journalist and author Thomas Friedman to an unnamed assistant upon being told his editor was unavailable to take his call: "Do you know who I am? I'm Tom fucking Friedman, and I pay your fucking salary!"

My, oh, my.

Venting his indignation on learning his most recent contract, for three novels, was dwarfed by a deal Wolfe had gotten, Philip Roth protested: "My p---- is as big as his!", Kachka reporting generalissimo Roger Straus, a college and high school dropout with an uppercrust pedigree who was given to swanning around the office wearing an ascot, told him to "f*ck off," Straus a person with no serious qualms about using earthy language, flap copy for the book indicating he would customarily refer to S.I. Newhouse as "that dwarf" and literary agent Andrew Wylie as "that sh*t," one of the CEO's favorite toasts reportedly: "F*ck the peasants!"

The moral atmosphere of the FSG office?  According to Kachka, Strauss' wife Dorothea termed it a "sexual sewer" and Leslie Sharpe, a former FSG assistant who Kachka says occasionally slept with Straus after she left the firm, reportedly told the author:

"Everybody was f*cking everybody in that office."

As to Kachka's claim that FSG was uniquely "literary" among New York publishers, a review in the New Yorker by FSG author R. Gottlieb said this view is fundamentally bogus, though granting the firm "has maintained an amazingly consistent level of quality."

Full title of the work: Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, now owned by a German firm.

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