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The Last Days of Publishing

The Last Days of Publishing: A Novel

Tom Engelhardt
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Last Days of Publishing
    Book Description:

    Pompeii never had it so bad. Rick Koppes knows a world is ending. The only question is, will he end with it? An editor at Byzantium Press for the last quarter century, he has watched his small, classy publishing house get gobbled up, first by an American publishing giant and then by Multimedia Entertainment, the Hollywood wing of Bruno Hindemann's German media empire. His editing colleagues are being downsized, his authors axed, and in a world where the cultural wallpaper is screaming, he himself hangs on by a fingernail—the latest work of his sole bestselling author, pop psychologist Walter Groth, is racing off bookstore shelves. And that's just where his problems begin—after all, Multimedia is about to make his exwife, a publishing executive at another house, his boss, his assistant wants his authors, and a woman who claims her father dropped the bomb on Nagasaki insists he publish her woeful memoir. Koppes, who came of age in the sixties, is an editor slowly running off the rails. In the six episodes of The Last Days of Publishing, he refights the Vietnam War in a Chinese restaurant, discovers that the paleontological is political in a natural history museum, mixes it up with a flamboyant literary agent who went underground decades earlier, and encounters a hippie cultural oligarch on the fortyfifth floor of Multimedia's transnational entertainment headquarters. Tom Engelhardt, himself a publishing veteran, has produced a tumultuous vision of the new world in which the word finds itself hustling for a living. By turns hilarious, sardonic, and poignant, his novel deftly captures the ways in which publishing, which has long put our world between covers but has seldom been memorialized in fiction, is being transformed.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-086-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Part I

      (pp. 3-32)

      When you visit Pompeii, as perhaps you have, as up to a million people do each year, and walk stony expanses that were once bustling streets in a Roman West Palm Beach, you are, of course, a tourist at the end of a world. You’ll inspect rehabilitated villas like the House of the Faun, sealed under twenty-three feet of pumice and ash that red-hot August day nineteen centuries ago. Perhaps you’ll venture to the outskirts of what was once a town of twenty-five thousand, with baths, stadiums, gladiatorial barracks, and a port for galleys carrying Phoenician wine and Egyptian jade....

  4. Part II

    • Chapter 2 HISTORY
      (pp. 35-48)

      I bumped into Miriam Levy—quite literally—on the second afternoon of the convention that April day in 1997 as we both hurried toward the Jefferson Room of the Washington Sheraton. On impact, I felt a little burst of annoyance. Only then did I look down. She is, I would guess, barely five feet tall. Although we hadn’t seen each other in more than a quarter of a century, I recognized her instantly.

      Normally, you have to search for the past in faces blurred by life, as in photos too long exposed. With Miriam, it was the opposite. Time, like...

      (pp. 49-79)

      Larry and I rarely met for lunch. We scheduled meals on a monthly basis, but one of us usually backed out. To my surprise, on that day in November 1998, neither of us did. Larry had suggested Claus Carlsrad, an inexpensive German restaurant just off First Avenue and heavy on thewurstdishes. It was our regular spot. If we went anywhere, we went there.

      To my mind, restaurants are like gas stations, meant to tank you up so you can get to your next stop, but Larry takes his food seriously. So Claus Carlsrad always seemed an odd choice....

    • Chapter 4 UNDERGROUND
      (pp. 80-108)

      Mel Sawyer arrived at the West End with a shaggy dog of indeterminate breed and the ABC reporter J. Boyle MacMurphy, author ofInto the Tall Grass, which I had published reluctantly but to remarkable success in 1987.

      “I’d think you’d take your writers to something better than this,” Boyle said as we shook hands.

      I nodded toward the dog. “If I’d known it was coming, I would have chosen Petland.”

      Sawyer was a wiry runt of a man with burned-out fuses for eyes and he was no author of mine. He had once been known forTears of Blood....

      (pp. 109-147)

      The day Jerry Golden contacted me, Ellen Stakowicz, senior editor at Desmond & Dickinson, was fired. When she called me from home, she was weeping. That morning she had been sent down to personnel. “I thought it had to do with changes in our pension plan,” she told me. She was directed to the office of a Personnel Communications Manager on a floor she had no idea D&D occupied. “I had never heard the title before.”

      The PCM told her she was being let go. She would be escorted upstairs by a “communications retainer” (“a sweet-looking blond boy of about twenty,”...

    • Chapter 6 SUBMISSION
      (pp. 148-209)

      If editing were synonymous with living, wouldn’t that be bliss? So many things step between you and another person, while on the page there are only knots of words calling out to be pried apart, each unknotted passage leading you ever closer to the writer. It’s so sensual, really. To edit means to draw close, but here’s the perverse twist: It also means to be alone, for every obstacle removed brings you closer to manuscript’s end. To be a good editor, you have to know when to leap from a manuscript and so from another’s life. To do your job,...

      (pp. 210-215)

      On a clear night, when you sense the moon shining especially intensely, you may be experiencing earthshine: sunlight bouncing off our planet to add its faint radiance to the moon’s already luminous self. Pick such a night, even in New York, and what greets you is a self-referential glow. Something of us, it seems, has always been up there.

      To live through your own demise, that’s a common fantasy. Sometimes it even happens. These episodes from my publishing life may already lie half-buried under transnational lava, yet here I am. As if I were Pliny the Youngerandhis uncle,...

  5. Back Matter
    (pp. 216-216)