Wednesday, August 12, 2015

UNREQUITED LOVE

First, let me say this. I love The New York Times and have read it faithfully since I was 13 years old, travelling from Jamaica, Queens to The High School of Music and Art as an art student on 135th 
Street and Convent Avenue in Manhattan. That goes back 67 years.

In 1979 when my wife Judith and I founded The Permanent Press and Second Chance Press, we were indebted to the Times, for Thomas Lask, who had a column in the Sunday Book Review, wrote about our interest in republishing worthy titles that were at least 20 years old. (Another tip of the hat to the Book Review that over the years treated us well, from the days when Harvey Shapiro, Rebecca Sinkler, and Charles McGrath edited it...and recently again with Pamela Paul in control).

Over 400 books were sent to us by authors after the Lask article and we choose six of them to republish under our Second Chance Press imprint. We were blessed to have a full review on August 14, 1980 of Richard Lortz’s The Valdepenas, written by Anatole Broyard in the weekday Arts section. Reviews in this section of the paper were under the direction of the Culture Desk at the Times. It was a most auspicious beginning.  That was 35½ years ago.

For those who don’t read The New York Times, the Arts section covers culture in general and includes theater, art and gallery openings, dance, film reviews, performances, and one-title-a-day book reviews from Monday through Friday, which I always enjoy reading. With only five books reviewed each week I realized how few opportunities there were to get coverage.

Two weeks ago however, it occurred to me do some mathematical calculations. It turns out that 9,230 full reviews at the Culture Desk were published during that time period. Another mathematical calculation: of our 425 titles in print up to this year, our authors have won 107 awards and citations (one can look this up in our online catalog). Our mystery writers alone have been winners and finalists for every major mystery prize over the past couple of years and several minor ones as well.  Permanent Press writers have been published in 20 countries: Canada, Mexico, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, Japan, China, Taiwan, Poland, Korea, Italy, The Czech Republic, England, Macedonia, Australia, Greece, and Russia. During that time we’ve also had reviews in nearly every major newspapers in this country (many now defunct) and several Associated Press reviews.

In 1991, Sandra Scofield’s Beyond Deserving was one of five finalists for the National Book Award. There was a gala awards ceremony. But nobody at the weekday Times reviewed it or commented it. “How come”, I asked the editor who was in charge 24 years ago. The answer was “Well she didn’t win it, did she?”

So unrequited love does not refer to the Sunday Book Review at all, but only to books assigned for review coverage in the Arts section.

A bigger mystery concerns why our authors cast no shadow at the Culture Desk. So the beat (or rather the lack of it) goes on. Then again, who can account for unrequited love anyway, something all human beings have experienced, just as all who’ve suffered from it eventually get over it. So I’m not expressing any bitterness at all here. As said, The Times is my go-to-one-and-only newspaper. Still mathematics are mathematics, and in the end I have to think this is our cosmic destiny arranged by the Great Assigner in the Sky.

At this point in life I am more bemused than perplexed, since logic can’t solve what otherwise would be an unsolvable mystery, and I will continue to send out our books to those at the Culture Desk at the Times who decide what gets reviewed in the Arts section. I shall do this without any expectation of success (one can’t be disappointed if one has no expectations) other than doing my job of calling attention to some remarkable novelists.

I think of myself as an ancient Johnny Appleseed, tossing out grains and hoping they might flourish, and success has happened elsewhere. Perhaps it might even happen at the Culture Desk. But if not, I’m comforted by the fact that we’ve discovered and launched the careers of many wonderful writers, who have won more awards per title than those published by the Big Five, and who are known throughout the world.

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COMING NEXT WEEK, a blog written by Danner Darclight, the author of Concrete Carnival, a rare non-fiction title from us which we will be publishing next year. Danner, who is serving a 25 years to life sentence, has been hailed as one of the best prison writers in America. Be sure not to miss this one. In the meantime, I welcome your responses to Unrequited Love.

Marty


3 comments:

  1. Kafka wrote about these people in The Castle, Marty -- unresponsive jerks apparently too malicious to explain why they're screwing you. You can drive yourself nuts trying to figure them out, but they leave few clues.

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  2. Unrequited love might be the theme tune for many things book-ish these days, though the Permanent Press has more cause than many to bemoan it.

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  3. That is exactly why--as you note--getting older (along with all the drawbacks, to put it mildly) at least delivers some kind of cosmic amusement to balance the want, want, want to be recognized. To have all the hard work, the struggle, the surviving rejection, to be recognized. But the sting of feeling you haven't climbed the mountain never quite goes away. That's because we're human beings and no amount of meditation or rationalization makes us want to stop seeing a poster plastered on some wall, somewhere, that says, "Boy, you really did great this time. And yes, we mean you, darling!"

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