In 1988, a 29-year-old Jonathan Franzen published his first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City, a thriller set in the writer's hometown of St. Louis. When Stephen Morrison, the v-p and publisher of Picador, along with his team, began plans for a 25th anniversary edition of the book, they noticed other titles with upcoming anniversaries, and decided to create a program devoted to "contemporary masterpieces for a new generation." Picador will debut its Modern Classics line next week with the November 5 publication of a repackaged Twenty-Seventh City, complete with a new introduction by Franzen specialist and academic, Philip Weinstein.
Morrison has experience with breathing new life into old works. He decamped to Picador from Penguin in spring 2012; at Penguin he oversaw the publisher's backlist, including both Penguin Books and Penguin Classics. At Penguin, Morrison said he had "a lot of fun" working on, among other projects, "the beautiful and successful Penguin Classics Deluxe line of books that utilize incredible artists." Working with the Picador backlist now, Morrison has a similar goal. "Picador's backlist is packed with incredible writers and books, and the strategy of choosing a few to see how an artist might interpret it was something I wanted to continue to be involved with."
Each Picador Modern Classic will feature french flaps and a rough front, as well as a reimagined cover design; e-book editions will also be published alongside the print releases.
What exactly makes a book a "modern classic," according to Picador? "All sorts of thinking goes into the decision," Morrison explained. "From the feeling that a particular work by a great author may not be receiving the attention it should, to trying to draw attention to more overlooked books that at one time may have been more widely read."
For now, Picador will keep the series small, publishing no more than two to three books per year. On deck is Colum McCann's novel Dancer, tentatively slated for a summer 2014 release.