Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Boris Kachka, Author
Boris Kachka. Simon & Schuster, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9189-4
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4516-9192-4
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-4516-9191-7
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The New York book world, poised between scruffy glamour and crass commercialism, emerges in this lively chronicle of an iconic institution. New York magazine contributing editor Kachka chronicles the midsized independent publishing house whose mission of bringing high culture to the mass market set the tone for postwar American letters. The saga’s charismatic ringmaster is Roger Straus, FSG’s ebullient, profane part owner and publisher. His tangled relationships with a string of brilliant writers, including Edmund Wilson, Susan Sontag, Tom Wolfe, and Philip Roth, are equal parts paternalistic and exploitative; authors loved FSG’s support and sympathy—Straus and his editors championed difficult writers and nurtured blocked, broke, and addicted ones—but the substandard advances, not so much. Threading through Kachka’s juicy narrative is an epochal shift in the industry: from the old FSG, with its shabby offices, lewd banter, nonstop adulteries, dysfunctional quasi-familial relations between authors and the publisher, and febrile literary passions, to the new era of bland media conglomerates, for which books are but transitory business partnerships between executives, authors, and celebrity agents. Entertaining, accessible, smart, and thought-provoking, this is a book very much in tune with the lost literary milieu it recreates. Photos. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Aug. 6)
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