An Editor Abroad

Learning to read the Web

Still no news from the Fair, so I will have to tell you about Los Angeles: my book fair of one at the Chateau Marmont.

My first meeting–breakfast–was with PR guru Jonathan Bing, who fifteen years ago (as an editor at Publishers Weekly) gave me my first job in publishing (as a part-time secretary at said magazine). I remember our job interview well. It occurred over the phone. He asked whether I could start the next day; I asked whether there was a dress code. „A lot of people wear khakis.“

I went out that afternoon and bought a pair of khakis.

Jon Bing took me to my first Paris Review party. I spent the whole time talking to a very pleasant older woman who introduced herself to me (in line for the bar) as the mistress of a well-known German author, whose then-recent bestselling novel I had enjoyed very much. I had never met anyone who described herself as somebody’s „mistress.“ I also remember meeting the Right Reverend Paul Moore, Archbishop of New York (wearing a cassock) and George Plimpton. It was the most glamorous party of my life. I called my mother the next day to tell her all about it.

At breakfast Bing and I discussed Mario Vargas Llosa –congratulations, FSG!! congratulations and hugs!– and the departure from Page Six of Richard Johnson.

My second meeting–brunch–was with the former editor of a rock ’n roll magazine. She taught me the term „touch value.“ As I understand it, that is the length of time people hold on to your magazine without throwing it away. A useful concept.

My third meeting took me to the Geffen Playhouse, in Westwood. Nuts were served. We discussed the value of newspaper advertising, Neil LaButte (not his value, just him), Michel Houellebecq, and the difficulties of raising subscriptions. A most enjoyable and productive meeting.

Dinner with the director Chris Weitz and his wife, Mercedes Martinez– not *that* Mercedes Martinez, the wrestler. The other one. We discussed the humiliations attendant on writing, or being written about, on the Web. I found myself very impressed with Chris’s sangfroid in the face of bad publicity. When someone writes to say they don’t like the cover of The Paris Review, it hurts my feelings. We agreed that I must learn to take these things in stride.

It occurs to me, though, that my generation of writers, editors, directors, and others in the arts may never learn to read the Web on its own terms–i.e. never late at night and never (at any time of day) during a dark night of the soul.

 

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