Muse by Jonathan Galassi (4 out of 5)

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I emailed someone at Random and begged for a copy of this. It sounded right up my alley. It was! The nitty gritty of the war between two publishing figures of iconic stature in New York City. Paul Kukach is our main character; he’s in line to hopefully head Purcell & Stern, one of the last remaining independent publishing houses. It’s semi-shabby outer appearance clashes with the crème de la crème that line their publishing house roster. Homer Stern (love the name and the flamboyance of said character) is Paul’s boss and shows him the ropes- how to wine and dine agents over lunch, how to swim in safe waters often infested with literary sharks, and how to lovingly apply salve and ego boosts to the volatile, oddball authors who litter the roster. A lot of this novel, in this regard.. sounds eerily on point in many situations, from my experience (15 years in bookstores, I’ve seen and heard a lot of wild shit behind the scenes and on the scenes. I could write a book, except no one would publish it…unless Purcell & Stern were still around!). Paul’s favorite writer out of all is the elusive and notoriously private Ida Perkins. The only conflict? Ida’s cousin (and LOVER) is her publisher, and also happens to be Homer’s biggest publishing rival as well. Paul’s invited to her palazzo and she spills the beans to him about one very big secret that will change everything in this game. Ida, by the way, is one of my favorite characters EVER. This isn’t a very big book, by any means, but it doesn’t need to be, because it tells the story of these two publishing war hounds and their fight to the finish- but with finesse, not a word wasted, and a lot of humor. Galassi knows how to craft a story that rings true in many corners of a darkened room, and he does it quickly. Not a word or sentence is wasted here, and the writing is spectacular. The story? Also spectacular. My only complaint? The story has to end, and it’s entirely too short at 245 pages. This is one of those books that I could have kept on reading and reading. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in writing, publishing, bookselling, any facet of the publishing industry. I hope Galassi gifts us with another book and another look behind the scenes sometime in the future.

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~ by generationgbooks on June 19, 2015.

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