Episode 122 – A Muse Apart

Virtual Memories Show #122:
Jonathan Galassi – A Muse Apart

“The literary writer still needs someone to have a dialogue with, to help shape their book, understand it and make it as presentable to the world as possible.”

51xxp01m9xL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_FSG president Jonathan Galassi has been a literary editor and publisher for more than four decades, so how did that experience prepare him for publishing his first novel? Find out in this week’s show, as we talk with Mr. Galassi about Muse (Knopf)! We talk about his history (and future) in publishing, how he wound up a publisher-hybrid of Roger Straus and James Laughlin, how he learned to shut off his editor-self in order to get in touch with writer-self, why he took the challenge of writing a character’s world-changing poetry, and more. Give it a listen!

“The most important thing an editor has is taste. And how do you get taste? By reading a lot of books, and coming to understand what makes them good. Having a visceral love or detestation is important.”

jonathan_galassi_535We also talk about Muse‘s affectionate satire of the New York publishing world (okay: he calls it a “revenge fantasy” in our conversation), why he enjoys the rough-and-tumble aspects of the biz, the degree to which authors’ expectations have changed over the decades, the degree to which publishing relies on luck, the best training for an editor, our favorite Philip Roth novels, the value of big advances, where he falls on MFA vs. NYC, why the better literary writers should shouldn’t self-publish, and whether it was a taboo for him to venture into fiction writing after spending so many years editing fiction writers. (Photo: Yvonne Albinowski/New York Observer)

“You go into publishing because you love literature, and you end up reading a lot of crap.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Jonathan Galassi is a lifelong veteran of the publishing world and the author of three collections of poetry, Morning Run, North Street and Other Poems and Left-handed, as well as translations of the Italian poets Eugenio Montale and Giacomo Leopardi. He has served as a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin, and as executive editor and later president of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In 2008 he received the Maxwell E. Perkins Award, which recognizes an editor, publisher, or agent who “has discovered, nurtured and championed writers of fiction in the U.S.” A former Guggenheim Fellow and poetry editor of the Paris Review, he also writes for the New York Review of Books and other publications. He lives in New York City. His new novel is Muse.

Credits: This episode’s music is Caçada by Bebel Gilberto. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Galassi’s office at FSG on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Galassi by Yvonne Albinowski/New York Observer.

You Must Change Your Life

For the last two years, I’ve been beating people over the head to read Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel, The Leopard. It’s one of my all-time faves and it turns out that E.M. Forster loved it, too. Here’s the opening of a piece he wrote in an intro to Lampedusa’s short works:

This prefatory note is a meditation rather than an introduction. Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa has meant so much to me that I find it impossible to present him formally. His great novel The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) has certainly enlarged my life — an unusual experience for a life which is well on in its eighties. Reading and rereading it has made me realize how many ways there are of being alive, how many doors there are close to one, which someone else’s touch may open. The authors was born after me and he has died before me — an unexpected sequence. He is my junior. I like to fancy that he has left me a personal legacy.

It’s one of the few books that I felt “changed my life,” and I count myself lucky that I can still have that experience in my forties. I’m glad to discover that Forster had the same experience at twice my age.

Now go read The Leopard, consarnit!

Podcast: Eternity is Music that Plays

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi on The Virtual Memories Show (2/2)

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 10 – Eternity is Music that Plays

“Americans who come to Italy want to get its beauty, its art, its delicious food. They move very fast through Italy. They’ll see 8 or 10 cities in two weeks.”

Poet, novelist, memoirist and all-around wonderful writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi joins us on this episode of The Virtual Memories Show to talk about her two new books, The Other Side of the Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy and Toscanelli’s Ray: A Novel. It’s a great conversation about the American experience in Italy over 40 years. Ms. Wilde-Menozzi possesses both a poet’s sensibility for beautiful language and a keen eye that carefully observes the character of Italy, its populace, and its art. I highly recommend The Other Side of the Tiber; it’s a gorgeous, haunting book (I haven’t read Toscanelli yet, so I can’t vouch for it).

“I felt the enormous power of what Michelangelo was doing, but also this sense of process, the fact that we’re becoming, that nothing is quite finished.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out our archives for more great talk!

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About our Guest

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi grew up in Wisconsin amid stability and quiet natural beauty. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she lived in Oxford, England, NYC, London, Rome, Palo Alto, California and finally, Parma, Italy. Her Midwestern accent has never been replaced, even by learning other languages. She teaches in Europe and the U.S., lectures widely, and is a founding member of the Ledig-Rowohlt International Writers Residence in Lavigny, Switzerland, where she has read the work of more than 500 writers from 65 countries. She is the author of Mother Tongue: An American Life in Italy.

She writes, “The decades I have lived in Italy brought me to the door of different ways of seeing. I knocked, not without trepidation, and have never gotten through half of the rooms. I write about our times in poetry, essays, memoir, nonfiction, and fiction.”

Credits: This episode’s music is Her Hollow Ways by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi. The conversation was recorded at Wallis’ New York pied-a-terre on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by Amy Roth.

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