In a few short weeks publishing legend Jonathan Galassi will be visiting our shores to promote his wonderful debut novel, Muse. Galassi is president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and, as a guest of this year’s Melbourne and Brisbane Writers Festivals, will be talking about the publishing scene in New York City, editing Jonathan Franzen, working in translation and, of course, his delightful debut novel, Muse.
Muse is a charming and romantic look at publishing from the inside. It’s sexy, funny and smart, and it’s about books—what more could you ask for!
This is a love story. It’s about the good old days, when men were men and women were women and books were books, with glued or even sewn bindings, cloth or paper covers, with beautiful or not-so-beautiful jackets and a musty, dusty, wonderful smell; when books furnished many a room, and their contents, the magic words, their poetry and prose, were liquor, perfume, sex, and glory to their devotees. These loyal readers were never many but they were always engaged, always audible and visible, alive to the romance of reading. Perhaps they still exist underground somewhere, hidden fanatics of the cult of the printed word.
Paul Dukach is heir apparent at Purcell & Stern, one of the last independent publishing houses in New York, whose shabby offices on Union Square belie the treasures of its list. Thanks to his boss, the flamboyant Homer Stern, Paul learns the ins and outs of the book world.
But though things are shaky in the age of conglomerates and digital, Paul remains obsessed by one dazzling writer: poet Ida Perkins, whose outsize life and audacious verse have shaped America’s contemporary literary landscape, and whose longtime publisher—also her cousin and erstwhile lover—happens to be Homer’s biggest rival. And when Paul at last meets Ida at her secluded Venetian palazzo, she entrusts him with her greatest secret—one that will change their lives forever.
Enriched by juicy details from a quintessential insider, Muse is a love letter to publishing and a wonderfully nostalgic novel filled with intrigue, ambition, love and desire.
For a great introduction read this interview in Salon, where Galassi talks about many things including Muse, Franzen and the current state of publishing. And in his interview with ABC Radio National Books & Arts Daily he makes a small connection between Ida Perkins, the wonderful rock-star poet at the centre of his novel, and our own literary pretender Ern Malley. And for the musically inclined, Galassi has created a playful list of music to accompany the novel for Largehearted Boy, including everything from Frank Sinatra to Kurt Cobain, from Stravinsky to The Temptations.
Praise for Muse
‘The novel is an enjoyably incestuous tangle of life and art, with allusions that branch beyond the insular realm of New York publishing and into American literary culture.’ Boston Globe
‘I have not enjoyed a book this much in a long time. Galassi’s writing skips along with seemingly effortless ease. He manages to capture an idea, a person or a moment without needing to distract you with the brilliance of his own wit or style.’ Tim Hehir, Melbourne Review of Books
‘Muse is many things: a satire of New York’s social world, a portrait of publishing that is both love song and takedown, and an intriguing mystery. But beneath the book’s sometimes brittle surface lies the belief that literature can change lives. Yes, the business of books is changing. But what’s written on the pages remains just as powerful, just as real—and few know that better than Jonathan Galassi.’ New York Times
‘Muse is quintessentially stylish, as well as a poetic contemplation on the mythologising of authors, the symbiotic relationship between writers and their work, and the impact of fame on life.’ Guardian
‘The prelude acts like a soothing balm to any print-loving bibliophile who feels besieged by the encroaching takeover of electronic copy.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘Muse is quintessentially stylish, as well as a poetic contemplation on the mythologising of authors, the symbiotic relationship between writers and their work, and the impact of fame on life.’ Observer
‘There’s a rich sense of place, as Galassi clearly draws on personal experience, lightly fictionalised. You can practically smell the mustiness of the shabby chic offices of Purcell & Stern...There’s also a salacious fun to be had in trying to spot who might be who in the real world.’ New Daily