He joined Norton in 1998 and didn't miss a beat. Norton president Drake McFeeley told PW that Weil "had a huge impact on Norton from the very day he arrived. I don't remember anyone coming here and putting so many books on the list so fast." Weil said he moved to Norton because "Norton does more of the kind of books that I wanted to do, and it's independent—we don't have to do certain kinds of books."
Acquired by Norton in 1974, Liveright & Company is a historic publishing house cofounded by Horace Liveright in 1917 and credited with leading a revival in American literature. Liveright published many of the great writers of the 1920s and 1930s—William Faulkner, e.e. cummings, and Gertrude Stein among them—as well as classic works by Sigmund Freud, T.S. Eliot, and others. Indeed, pointing to books like Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (published by Liveright in 1925), Weil said Liveright "introduced sex and scandal into American publishing."
Liveright will reflect Weil's eclectic publishing philosophy. "I like being a generalist, I like being a bit quirky, and I like great writing," he said, "and I've never accepted the divide between what's commercial and what's literary because literary is intensely commercial." He's just published a new edition of Rimbaud's Illuminations, with a new translation by poet John Ashbery. "Over time this will be a classic," Weil predicted, "and we'll sell 200,000 copies. Every student will read it—is that not commercial?" Weil also doesn't really look on publishing as a business: "It's a love affair with the writer and with writing—good business just seems to come out of it."
Weil said Liveright will publish graphic novels—look for new books from cartoonists R. Crumb and David Small: "If Horace Liveright were alive today he'd be doing great graphic works and he would have loved R. Crumb." There will be quality fiction (new novels by J.G. Ballard), translated works (the long-awaited Complete Works of Primo Levi and a new translation of The Divine Comedy); serious history (a two-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson by Gordon-Reed), and "edgy things"—he's developing an app based on a forthcoming Philip Glass autobiography that will feature original music by the composer. "We like to stir things up a bit," he said, noting that Liveright will also offer e-books and selectively develop apps "for the right books."
After 31 years in publishing, Weil said he's most proud of the dozen or so former assistants—among them Doubleday publisher Bill Thomas, Riverhead publisher Geoff Kloske, and Knopf senior editor Andrew Miller—who are now working in publishing and media positions. "It sounds corny," Weil said, "but as an editor you can get up in the morning and change the world with the books that you publish."