Show cover of The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale

The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale

THE BIBLIO FILE is a podcast about "the book," and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by Nigel Beale it features wide ranging, long-form conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and many others inside the book trade and out - from writer to reader.


Justin Pemberton on how to adapt an 800-page best-seller into a documentary film
About a month ago I watched a documentary entitled Capital in the 21st Century. It was pretty riveting, describing much of what, and how, I've been thinking  over the past few years about the American take-over of Canada, and the belief that the country "developed" largely because the very rich were too lazy, risk-averse and unpatriotic to invest in their own country, preferring instead to let the more adventurous Americans do the heavy lifting in exchange for a commission - collected by bankers, accountants and lawyers - which was then sent offshore, where returns were better, and taxes lower or non-existent.    The documentary, based on French economist Thomas Piketty's best-selling book of the same name (Harvard University Press, 2014) - a copy of which I've just bought for the second time - tells the story of how fights over capital resulted in two world wars, followed by a mid-century golden period during which the wild beast was tamed and the promise of a merit-based economic system, among other things, was briefly realized, until the animal was unleashed again thanks to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Today inequality is at the same frightful extremes experienced prior to the world wars. Will we repeat the same devastating mistakes, knowing what we now know?    The film is a warning; and director Justin Pemberton delivers it with all the power of his medium. I talk with the New Zealander (!) about how he went about converting Piketty's startling 800-page narrative of capitalism's past, present and future, into a fast-paced, thrilling, persuasive, on-screen polemic.  
66:39 3/7/23
Scott Ferris on Artist and Book Illustrator Rockwell Kent
Scott R Ferris, is a  researcher, writer and specialist in the art of Rockwell Kent (1882-1971). He has conducted many lectures on Kent and has served as curator for a lot of Kent exhibitions.   Here's a thumbnail of Kent culled from what Zoë Samels has written on the U.S. National Gallery website:   He attended the Horace Mann School in New York City where he excelled at mechanical drawing. After graduating he decided to study architecture at Columbia University. In 1905 he moved from New York to Monhegan Island in Maine home to a summer art colony where he found inspiration in the natural world.   He found success exhibiting and selling his paintings in New York and in 1907 was given his first solo show at Claussen Galleries. The following year he married his first wife, Kathleen Whiting, with whom he had five children.  For the next several decades he lived a peripatetic life, chilling in Connecticut, Maine, and New York. During this time he took  extended voyages to remote, often ice-filled, corners of the globe: Newfoundland, Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, and Greenland, to which he made three separate trips. For Kent, exploration and artistic production were twinned endeavors. His travels to these rugged, rural locales provided inspiration for both his visual art and his writings. He developed a stark, realist landscape style that expressed both nature’s harshness and its sublimity. Kent’s human figures, which appear sparingly, often signify mythic themes, such as heroism, loneliness, and individualism. Important exhibitions of works from these travels include the Knoedler Gallery’s shows in 1919 and 1920. Kent wrote a number of illustrated memoirs about his adventures abroad, including Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska (1920)   By 1920 he had taken up wood engraving and quickly established himself as one of the preeminent graphic artists of his time. His striking illustrations for two editions of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—  precise and abstract images that drew on his architect’s eye for spatial relations and his years of maritime adventures—proved extremely popular and remain some of his best-known work. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s his print output included advertisements, bookplates, and Christmas cards. His satirical drawings, created under the pseudonym “Hogarth Jr.,” were published in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Harper’s Weekly, and Life.  By the onset of World War II, Kent was focusing energy on progressive political causes, including labor rights and preventing the spread of fascism in Europe. Though he never joined the communist party his support of leftist causes made him a target of the State Department which revoked his passport after his first visit to Moscow in 1950 (though Kent successfully sued to have it reinstated). As his reputation declined at home and his work fell out of favor, Kent found new popularity in the Soviet Union, where his works were exhibited frequently in the 1950s.    I visited Scott at his book-filled home in Boonville, in upstate New York, to trace the arc of Kent's life through the lens of various items in Scott's extensive collection of Kentiana
61:35 2/28/23
Stephen Marche on Writing and Failure and Getting your Balls Hacked Off
Is failure an inherent part of the writing "enterprise"? Yes, I'd say, this is undoubtedly true. If seen, however, solely as an "exercise" in itself, does this still hold true? I'm not quite so sure.   These are the axes along which I tread during my conversation with Stephen Marche about his valuable new book On Writing and Failure: Or, On the Peculiar Perseverance Required to Endure the Life of a Writer, an essay published by Biblioasis.    We talk about, among other things, fulfillment, learning, self-knowledge, horse-feathers, attention, Jesus, Beckett, privacy, connection, writing and failure of course, intention, recognition, fame, meaning, communication, money, futility, perseverance, success, publishing, expletives, essays, Confucius, Socrates, Samuel Johnson, depression, mental health and illness, comfort, getting your balls cut off, fame, mock executions, resonance, and the cure for cosmic loneliness. 
65:04 2/19/23
Sasha Tochilovsky on one of the greatest partnerships in magazine history
Sasha Tochilovsky is a graphic designer, typographer, curator, teacher and head of the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at the Cooper Union in New York City. We talk here about one of the greatest creative teams in magazine history: author, editor, publisher and photo-journalist Ralph Ginzburg and graphic designer and typographer Herb Lubalin. We rustle around in the work these two produced together in Eros, Fact and Avant Garde magazines during the 1960s, discussing magazine design, sex, risk, censorship, advertising, typography and the shape of language, U&lc (Upper & Lower Case) Magazine, lettering, aesthetics, humour, Marilyn Monroe, Bert Stern, JFK, Grace Kelly, and the vindictiveness of Robert Kennedy. 
67:37 2/14/23
Andy Hughes on Bob Caro and Book Production at Knopf
Andy Hughes is Senior Vice President of Production and Design at Knopf Doubleday, and I really wanted to know what he had to say. During a recent conversation with Lizzie Gottlieb about her new documentary film Turn Every Page, listen here, she mentioned that she regretted not being able to include what Andy had had to say about producing Bob Caro's books. So, I contacted Andy and asked him to give me the goods. He kindly agreed to talk. He's superb on what goes into the making of a good book. Going back 40+ years and returning to the present, he talks to me authoritatively about everything from hot metal and linotype machines, to mainframes and desktop computers; locked pages, repros and offset printing plates, to goldenrods, long galleys, and folded signatures; Smythe sewing and cloth cases to off-shore and laser printing, print on demand, paperless offices and remote proof-reading. Basically all the stages of book manufacturing, how they've evolved over the years that Caro has been writing books, and how the standards of production have and have not been maintained or replicated since that first edition of The Power Broker was published in 1974. Among many other things we learn that Caro has chosen not make e-book versions of his work available to the public. I love that. 
63:32 2/6/23
Gerry Butts and John Duffy on How Canada Works
Last year when John Duffy, a Canadian political strategist and writer, died at the age of 58, I noticed an outpouring of genuine love, and sadness, on Twitter, along with frequent references to his book Fights of our Lives. It was called one the best ever written on Canadian politics. So I picked up a copy. It's filled with dozens of old photographs, and images of period posters, and flyers, buttons, correspondence, and other fascinating bits and pieces of ephemera and memorabilia: the 'confetti of history' as Walter Benjamin liked to put it, plus it features these great 'diagrams' of game plans, 'playbooks,' that John came up with to explain the strategies and tactics used in what he considered to be the five most consequential elections in Canadian history. It was visually captivating, and a fun informative read, so I decided to feature it on The Biblio File Book Club. But who to engage with?   Several people suggested Justin Trudeau's close friend and advisor, Gerry Butts. After a bit of toing and froing, and my prematurely and, as it turns out, quite erroneously, dismissing him as a typical political bounder, it all came together. Gerry agreed to play ball. We met in person several days ago at the Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa.    Gerry is currently Vice Chairman of The Eurasia Group, a risk management firm with offices around the world. We talk here about John Duffy's optimism, about whether or not elections matter; about cynicism, championship debating, Canada's business elite, the PBO's report on income inequality, the urban-rural divide, 1300 Dollarama stores, lifting children out of poverty, the King-Bing Affair, SNC Lavalin, the Manitoba School crisis, Wilfrid Laurier and Justin Trudeau's 'Sunny Ways,' kicking the can down the road; Lament for a Nation, and Mel Hurtig. There's a James Joyce quote. Gerry tells a joke about Franz Kafka on the way out the door, and I recommend that he reads Nora Krug's illustrated edition of On Tyranny.    Plus another thing: we're both convinced that John Duffy's Fights of our Lives (egregiously it's both out of print and published by an American multi-national) should be made into a TV Series as soon as possible.  
59:42 1/30/23
Michael Geist on the pathetic argument for extending copyright in Canada
​I booked a room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Montreal through Hotwire a couple of days ago. When I arrived at the hotel the receptionist asked me for a $250 deposit for incidentals. Next morning, without my permission (sure, okay, it's likely buried in the small print) they charged my card an additional $200. I subsequently learned that this was because I'd booked a couple of massages at their spa. When I checked out they charged me for the massages and told me that I should see the $450 back on my card in 2-3 business days.    Of course, this scam earns the hotel money at my expense. A tiny expense, but, when combined with all of the other visitors' tiny expenses, not tiny. This scam is similar to the one operated by the oil companies when they insist that you punch in the amount you think you'll need to spend filling your tank at their pumps. It's your money and time they're stealing. Peanuts per person, big coconuts together.    Where's the government on this? The same place government is on poor banking services, the highest mobile phone rates in the world, and sky-high dairy prices. Nowhere. Canadian governments have abandoned Canadian consumers. Valets to the rich and big business they are; to an alarming degree.   Which brings us to copyright legislation.    Cravenly hidden in an omnibus Budget Bill (a tactic Trudeau swore he'd never use), Bill C-32 received royal assent on December 31, 2022. It extends copyright protection in Canada for writers and other creators from fifty to seventy years after they die. How does this benefit the public? It doesn't. Not at all. Does it provide added incentive for these authors to create and innovate? None. Does it help readers and researchers and teachers? No, it does the opposite.    Lobbyists convinced the Trudeau government to extend copyright with one pathetic argument: that it brings Canada into compliance with other jurisdictions. Greed won out in other words. Now, no new works will come into the public domain in Canada for another twenty years. How does this affect books and readers, writers and publishers? I ask Michael Geist. He's a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law and is a member of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society. He has obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees from Cambridge University in the UK and Columbia Law School in New York, and a Doctorate in Law (J.S.D.) from Columbia Law School - so he should know.
49:48 1/23/23
Director Lizzie Gottlieb on her documentary Turn Every Page. And Books, Writers, and Editors
My GP took off on me last year. Landed some big gig in Geneva I think. He's a bright one. Not that I knew him very well. Only met him twice in six years. Anyhow, I went in for my tri-annual (once every three) check-up the other day. The nurse was pleasant. Told me he'd been working in the same clinic for 30 years. Adventurous, I thought. Then a student comes in. Also pleasant. Bit bland, but hey, I thought, it takes years to spice up character. Finally the resident/doctor arrives. Must've been in her mid-thirties. She was absolutely delightful. Smiling, smart, funny. What a difference she made. She lit up the room.   Same can be said of Lizzie Gottlieb when she appeared on the screen. My screen that is, on Zoom. ​​It was a delight to talk with her about Turn Every Page her new documentary (released December 30th, 2022 by Sony Classics). It features the 50-year relationship between writer Bob Caro, 87, and his editor Bob Gottlieb, 91.   Turn Every Page has a delightful (yes, I know, I'm using it too much, but I figure if  Caro can overuse a mot juste  - "loom" in his case, according to Bob G. - so can I) soundtrack. It deftly conducts the viewer, and the two Bobs, through the film towards the pressing goal of completing Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. We see the two at work on the fifth and final volume of the book and in the process, learn about what they're both after: uncompromised (uncompromising?) excellence. The two are by nature industrious, and both have egos. Combine all of the above and you have the makings of both a classic book, and a very watchable documentary, one that gives you a feel for the magic in this unique relationship and a sense of the great joy that can be experienced between writer and editor as they make a book together.  What you get with this film is a whimsical, entertaining glimpse at a very special kind of quiet alchemy.   I had such fun with this project: watching the film, twice, re-reading parts of Bob Gottlieb's memoir Avid Reader, conducting the interview, editing it, and then right afterwards, going out for a walk and listening to it. I hope your experience with the listening part is as "delightful" as mine was.
37:37 1/8/23
Richard Charkin on how you too can set up a successful publishing business
A perceptive devotee of the podcast told me last week that he thought I was an ignoramus.      'You don't think it takes talent to be a photographer (referring to something said during this conversation with Michael Torosian, maker of fine press photography books, here)?'   'I do think it takes talent,' I responded. 'I just don't know how much. The case hasn't been made very well I don't think for photographers. Besides, true artistic genius is rare, regardless of what field you're talking about.'   'Why are you singling out photography then?'   'Well,' I averred, 'as Alexey Brodovitch, Conde Nast's great art director once put it: 'To learn yourself is more difficult than to listen to a teacher...Please take everything I say with a grain of salt. My way of guiding people is by irritation. I will try to irritate you, to explore you... the more disagreement the more we learn.'   The idea is that when you intentionally irritate someone they often respond with their best work. I like to try this on every now and again during an interview.'   In fact, I tried it on last week, albeit unintentionally, during a conversation with Richard Charkin when I suggested that the relative success of his new publishing experiment might be attributable, in part at least, to the fact that he, and most of his clients, have money.    Richard has achieved much over the years during a creditable, significant career. He got to the very top of the publishing world. Nothing more satisfying to him though, I'm guessing, than having launched and operated Mensch, his thriving little 'micro' publishing house.    I wanted to know how he was getting on after four years at the helm, what he'd learned, and, as it turns out, whether or not others could duplicate what he's done without the benefit of his special place both in the publishing constellation and in the world at large.    The conversation commences with a mission statement; then some meaningless platitudes about books, communicating and making the world a better place; then we talk about how much Richard invested up front in Mensch; about the criteria he uses for choosing which books to publish; about personality and commissioning books; about emails and what they mean; rejecting submissions; working with journalists, celebrities and non-celebrities; saving author proofs; growing backlists; hiring publicists; using print-on-demand; achieving diversity in the publishing industry; Rovers, Minis, and yes, fairness, plus much, much more.    I was left with the impression that money has far less to do with creating a thriving publishing enterprise than does prudence, personality and good, new technology. Yes, it helps to be wonderfully communicative and outgoing, like Richard is, and observant. But what's inspiring here I think, the lesson if you will, is that if you follow Richard's lead, pay attention to what's going on around you, let others know what you're up to, keep tabs on technology, the chances are pretty good you'll be able to do some decent damage, and do it without having to spend a whole lot of money   You may not get rich, but you can change the world, hopefully for the better, just as Richard's doing.       
69:25 1/3/23
Michael Torosian (Part ll) on How to Interview an Artist for a Book
Here is Part ll of my conversation with Michael Torosian featuring his soon to be released memoir/bibliography Lumiere Press: Printer Savant and Other Stories (listen to Part l here).   This episode gets to the essence of Michael's book writing/publishing practice: the interview. We discuss a list of guidelines Michael has developed based on his experience interviewing some of greatest photographers of the 20th century. It can be found in Savant in a chapter entitled 'Residual Landscapes, The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky.' Here's a summary:   1. I educate myself to the fullest extent about the artist's life and work. 2. I make up a question list of at least two or three pages...The I throw the list away. 3. I begin the interview with something plucked from the uniqueness of the day, the inception of our new experience. 4. I listen. It's imperative to maintain situational awareness and stay in the moment. 5. I avoid leading questions 6. I probe for greater detail. 7. I re-ask questions 8. In the editing process I splice answers together from various "takes." There is no improvisation or invention 9. I strive to be self-effacing.
40:45 12/24/22
Michael Torosian on Photography & making Fine Press Photography Books
Michael Torosian has spent his life taking photographs, interviewing great photographers, and making fine press photography books. He's in the process of making another entitled Lumiere Press, Printer Savant and Other Stories to commemorate the establishment of the Lumiere Press Archive at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. It's full of life lessons and back-stories illuminating each of the twenty-two books he's published over the past four decades.    We sat down in his workshop, behind his house in Toronto, to talk about the book. Topics covered in this first installment of a two part conversation include: photography, bookmaking, relentless exploration, 'general aesthetics,' cultivating aptitudes, the blossoming of the photography market, Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind, decoding visual language, composition, respect, paying homage, the Ninth Street Show, Gordon Parks, learning as the key to existence, making every word count, the Paris Review's Writers at Work series, capturing the voice of the artist, the book as the medium of photography, and more. 
84:53 12/19/22
John Metcalf on a lifetime of editing and publishing short stories
John Metcalf is angry that after working in Canada as a "storyteller, editor, novelist, essayist, and critic" for more than fifty years his books still only sell about 500 copies each. Regardless of this, he's made a significant contribution to Canadian literature through his editing, teaching, critiquing, compiling of anthologies, publishing, and promotion generally of Canadian writers and the short story form. His work is known for its satire, intense emotion and imagery. In fact, his whole career can be said - John says it himself in Temerity and Gall, the book we discuss here today - to have been an extended conversation with Ezra Pound's Imagism. In our chronological conversation we examine John's life (he was born in 1938) starting with England and his relationship with his father, clergyman Thomas Metcalf; we talk about John's work with Oberon Press, ECW, Porqupine's Quill, and Biblioasis; about him teaching in the Montreal school system and almost dying of boredom, about publishing textbooks, and drinking with Mordecai Richler; about Michael Macklem (some people think he was a dick); about early catastrophes with Jack David and Robert Lecker, a lack of communication with Tim Inkster, and a love of Dan Wells's ambition. It's not all just juicy Canadian publishing gossip however, we also discuss James Joyce and the advent of film and modernism, Hemingway's first short story and the misspelling of his name, the serious ideas that underpin John's writing and editorial practice, and the success he's enjoyed, over many decades, of getting important books published. And finally, in the end, there's his patient, respectful wife Myrna working in the other room.
85:50 12/10/22
Anton Bogomazov on Mark LaFramboise and the role of the Bookstore Book Buyer
In an email I received several months ago, the owners of the iconic Washington, D.C. based independent bookstore Politics & Prose wrote that Mark LaFramboise, their chief book buyer, had died. “Mark was the best book buyer any independent bookstore could hope for,” Brad Graham and Lissa Muscatine said in their note. "Not only did he know books; he knew P&P’s customers, who gravitated to him because his passion for literature was infectious. Mark also was greatly appreciated by local authors, whose careers he championed and whose works he celebrated. And he was widely respected throughout the publishing industry, having built relationships over many years with booksellers and buyers at other stores, regional reps, editors, and top brass at the major publishing houses.”   Mark served as president of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) from 2014 to 2016, and as a judge for the 2019 National Book Awards. He was 60 years old.    I wanted to learn more about him. Brad suggested I interview Anton Bogomazov. He's responsible for buying books for P&P's two branch stores and knew Mark well. He too has an interesting resume, having lived in New York, Toronto, a tiny town in rural Japan and a suburb of Moscow. Anton, predictably, is a big reader, favouring many genres, including fiction of all kinds, queer lit/nonfiction, graphic novels and comics, essays, history, science, poetry and mythology (the original fiction). He tends to read four of five books at a time, and tries to be a good bookseller by having at least one not-yet-published book on his nightstand at all times.   We talk about the role of book buyer; his experience, and how Mark approached the position.
40:31 11/30/22
Tom Devlin on the rise of Drawn and Quarterly, and Graphic Novels
 Tom Devlin is a key figure in the world of graphic novels. His career mimics the evolution of the genre. As founder of Highwater Books, a publishing house he set up in the early 2000s, he treated alternative comics audiences in North America to their first book-length exposure to future star cartoonist/authors John Porcellino, Marc Bell, Ron Rege Jr., Brian Ralph and others - many of whom subsequently joined him at Drawn and Quarterly, the Montreal-based publishing house founded by Chris Oliveros. Tom now works at D&Q as executive editor (and co-owner) alongside his wife, publisher Peggy Burns. His early work - its high production values, thoughtful design and 'bookshelf-ready' formats, plus experience earned as a comics retailer and distributor - presaged, one could say, an explosion in the popularity of graphic novels, one that was amply fueled by the impressive stuff he put out with various artists over the years at D&Q.    I talk with Tom about his early love of comics, his work in comic book stores and his experiences publishing graphic novels; about his life with cartoonists and his work helping to build D&Q, plus the struggle experienced by the medium itself to be taken seriously. Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels serves as our guide.    We met underneath the well-walked wooden floors of La Petite Librairie D+Q, the company's children's retail bookstore outlet in the Mile End district of Montreal. 
76:49 11/22/22
Shannon DeVito on her role as 'Director of Books' at B & N
Shannon DeVito is Barnes and Noble's 'Director of Books.' We met via Zoom to discuss the roles and duties associated with this intriguing-sounding position. I discovered that they include co-ordinating the relationship between national and local book-buying teams; 'assortment' work; creating initiatives - including prizes ( e.g. the Discover Prize; most recent winner: The Rabbit Hutch, a debut novel which I'll shortly be 'book-clubbing' [having bookclub-type discussion, so to say] with James Daunt), book clubs, monthly book picks, etc. - for the company's promotional book strategy; developing campaigns with the publishing industry for important releases; negotiating 'exclusive' opportunities. Creating buzz basically, plus adding value to the experience of visiting a physical bookstore while taking market share away from Amazon without caring what they're up to. We look at B&N's pro-active influencing of taste and the leveraging of its role as big-time book recommender; plus there's a tiny bit of politics - the ethics of selling and profiting off stuff that might adversely affect democracy (only a tiny bit) - AND we discuss the recent explosion of Manga.  As promised during our conversation, here are Shannon's top recommendations of the day: FICTION The Marriage Portrait Lessons in Chemistry The Rabbit Hutch Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence     NONFICTION Ice Cold Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin' in New Orleans Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us Revolutionary: Samuel Adams Prisoners of the Castle        
50:47 11/14/22
Dan Paisner on being the voice of Ivanka, Serena, Whoopi, Denzel and Steve Aoki
Where does editing leave off and ghostwriting begin? How cool is it to pass yourself off as the writer if you haven't done any of the writing? How much recognition do "collaborators" deserve? Should ghostwriters be completely anonymous? When should they refuse assignments? How does one work with a person whose views are opposed to yours? Where does craft end and art take over? What explains a successful collaboration? Is this whole business ethical?   I ask these and other bumptious questions of seasoned, successful ghostwriter and novelist Dan Paiser, plus I pose a few from interested party David Mitchell whose first novel, Ghostwritten, embroils us in a cacophony of narrative voices.   Dan also delivers some excellent stories about Ivanka and The Donald, and Whoopi, and others, and we spend a bit of time talking about creativity, and Dan's latest novel, Balloon Dog. 
73:24 11/7/22
Valerie Picard on winning Best Children's Publisher at Bologna
Earlier this year a tiny Quebec-based children's publishing house, Monsieur Ed, won the prize for Best Children’s Publishers of the Year in North America at the Bologna Book Fair. It won, judges said, for being at the forefront of innovation in the creative nature of its editorial choices during the past year. I thought this was a big deal so I contacted publisher and creative director Valérie Picard. She told me (well, actually, it's written on the website), that Monsieur Ed "favors stories set in peculiar worlds where reality and fantasy coincide. He feeds on compelling tales with the power to transcend the ordinary, arouse laughter or bring tears. Universal stories that can inspire introspection and contemplation. Although fiction is at the heart of his publications, Monsieur Ed is also interested in documentaries, graphic novels, and even your favorite kind of tea." Monsieur Ed lives in Montreal, Quebec, and so does Valerie, and, for the time being, so do I. So I went over to her place to interview her, and her little dog Benjamin, about the creative choices she's made over the past year, indeed the past five, and to get at the reasons she thinks explain why she won at Bologna. 
63:33 10/31/22
Martha Fleming on Canada's greatest graphic designer
Allan Fleming (1929 – 1977) was a Canadian graphic designer best known for having created the Canadian National Railway logo, for designing the 1967 book Canada: A Year of the Land and for "revolutionizing" the look of scholarly publishing in North America in the 1970s with his work at University of Toronto Press.   In 1953 Allan moved to England to work as a graphic designer, and to learn about the practice from eminent English designers and design historians such as Stanley Morison, Oliver Simon, Herbert Simon, and Beatrice Warde. In 1955 he returned to Toronto where he landed a job as director of creative services at the typographic firm Cooper and Beatty Ltd. In 1962 he was appointed art director at Maclean's magazine. From 1963 to 1968 he was director of creative services at MacLaren Advertising and from 1968 to1976 he was chief book designer at the University of Toronto Press.     Throughout his career, Allan designed or consulted on the creation of many iconic Canadian images for clients including Canada Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Liberal Party of Canada, the Hudson's Bay Company, Ontario Hydro, and the Canada Council.   His daughter Martha Fleming,  a museum professional and academic, wrote and edited two issues of The Devil's Artisan in 2008 which were devoted to Allan's life and work. We met via Zoom to discuss them and the many achievements of this extraordinary Canadian.   
77:13 10/24/22
Nora Krug on vigilantly illustrating Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny
I first became aware of the graphic edition of Timothy Snyder's book On Tyranny during a visit to the National Socialist Documentation Centre museum in Munich about a year ago (revel in the backstory here). I bought and read a copy of the original edition shortly thereafter. It's a powerful book, full of important, actionable lessons. This past Summer I picked up a copy of Nora Krug's illustrated version of the book. Reading it was revelatory. I simply had to interview her.   So I contacted the person who knows every graphic designer in the world, Steven Heller. He'd just, of course, participated in a presentation with Nora. And yes, was happy to put us in touch.    Listen here as Nora and I go about reviewing the serious thought she put into illustrating On Tyranny, starting with the cover. Topics touched on include: the importance of small talk; the influence of illustrators; shedding light on the human character; origami; painting with blood (okay, paint that looks like blood); little feet; fire and smoke and war; moral questions, smudges, and the traces of history; big dumb hands; depicting fear; snooping around flea markets; salvaging found objects, photo albums and scrapbooks; how illustrations bring  books into different realms, adding new emphases and layers of meaning, contradictory and otherwise; empathy and history; the importance of personal narratives; emotional entry points into war; dissecting history; vigilance, and the responsibility that each of us has to fight against the rise of tyranny.    Photo Credit: Nina Subin
74:33 10/11/22
Jiri Nenicka on Samizdat and Resisting Totalitarian Censorship
Libri Prohibiti is a nonprofit, independent, archival research library located in Prague, Czech Republic that collects samizdat and exile literature. Founded by Jiri Gruntorad after the fall of the communist regime its holdings include some 40,000 monographs, periodicals, reference resources, and audiovisual materials. In addition to dissident articles, many popular books were banned, and subsequently distributed as samizdats including George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, both of which are held in the library.    In 2013, the Libri Prohibiti Collection of Czech and Slovak Samizdat periodicals from the years 1948–1989 was listed by UNESCO in its Memory of the World (MOW) Register. It is the largest collection of its kind in the world. According to the MOW Registry, "the completeness and uniqueness of this large number of documents attest to the fight against the communist totalitarian regime and its importance for the study of the history of the twentieth century."    I met with Jiri Nenicka, a librarian at Libri Prohibiti, in Prague to talk about the collection.   The novel/diary we refer to about 2/3 of the way in which beautifully describes the samizdat publishing experience is A Czech Dreambook by Ludvik Vaculik translated by Gerald Turner (Karolinum Press, Charles University, 2018)
52:50 9/26/22
Naomi Bacon on Marketing Books on Social Media
Naomi Bacon is a seasoned book marketer, and founder of The Tandem Collective. She has worked with JK Rowling’s agency, The Blair Partnership, as well as Pottermore, Pan Macmillan, Penguin and Hachette. Her ambition has always been "to be at the forefront of digital innovation, creating meaningful connections between publishing partners, content creators and brands to generate word of mouth around new book, film, theatre and TV releases."    We talk about how she came up with her "Readalong" service, as well as word of mouth being gold-dust, measuring the impact of social media marketing on the bottom line, micro-influencers, Instagram story posts, book recommendations, optimum follower numbers, marketers as booksellers, top ten bestseller lists, shoe-string campaigns, Tik-Tok's backlist power, conveying enthusiasm, curating social media, scathing reviews, structuring public book conversations, engagement, non-fiction titles, proof of product and bespoke marketing packages for small presses.    Naomi mentioned that Tandem offers a free video interview service for small presses who want to pitch their catalogues on Instagram and Youtube. For details, email her at 
52:34 9/18/22
Michael Zantovsky on Vaclav Havel and writing the biography of a close friend
Michael Žantovský is a Czech diplomat, author and translator. He is a former Czech Ambassador to the United Kingdom, as well as to Israel and the United States. He has translated more than fifty works of fiction, drama and poetry, mostly by contemporary American and British writers including James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, E.L. Doctorow, and Tom Stoppard. Non-fiction translations include works by Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright. He is currently the Executive Director of the Václav Havel Library.    We met in his office at the Library in Prague to talk about, among other things, his book Havel: A Life, published in 2014; about writing the biography of a close friend; about dealing with death, grief and indebtedness; about the clinical attitude; writing as a process of selection; hagiography; coming across honestly; guilt about wealth; responsibility and trust; Václav Havel's play sticking our noses into misery; hope and hopelessness; outsiders; Woody Allen; and the inner need to say something. 
49:36 9/12/22
John Owen on the best bookshop I've ever been in, in my life
John Owen is a bookseller who runs the events program at the English Bookshop at Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus in Berlin. That English Bookshop? Probably the best I've ever been in, in my life.   We talk about, among other things: being blown away; bookshop lighting; window seating; how to display books; mixing things up and discovering new titles; bookshops as cultural institutions; Sally Rooney; sales of English language books in Germany; trying to reduce references to Margaret Atwood in this podcast; bookstores being like bakers; keeping your eyes open; aesthetic awareness; Rebecca Solnit's genre-bending books; Albanian political scientists; kooky, unusual best-sellers; elevator pitches; hating science fiction, and more.
65:56 9/5/22
Elisabeth Ruge, Germany's leading literary agent
Elisabeth Ruge is a German editor, publisher and literary agent. She currently heads the Elisabeth Ruge Agency which she founded in 2014. In 1994 she established the Berlin Verlag publishing house together with her then husband Arnulf Conradi and Veit Heinichen.    I met Elisabeth at her home on the outskirts of Berlin to discuss the roles she has played over her career, including the one she currently plays as Germany's leading literary agent. Among other things we talk about the importance of "attention" in the book editing and publishing processes: getting it, giving it, maintaining it; about letting go; about spin and elevator pitches; about James McBride's The Color of Water; about Jonathan Littell's The Kindly One; about how essential in-house editors are to the success of publishing houses; about serious book conversation; about authors being paid honorariums in Germany; about the importance of an author's credibility; about critics; explanatory brochures; Gallimard covers; the agent-publisher relationship, the complexity of the publishing business...and about Denmark. 
59:40 8/27/22
Jonathan Landgrebe on Suhrkamp Verlag, Germany's Faber & Faber
Jonathan Landgrebe is the publisher of Suhrkamp Verlag. We met at his offices in Berlin to talk about his role as head of one of Germany's most revered publishing houses, and to riff off Siegfried Unseld's book The Author and His Publisher. Topics covered in our conversation include: important books that just don't sell; the publisher-author relationship; books that change both readers and the world; explaining and transferring feelings and enthusiasms to others; forcing values on the public; the war and recognizing Ukrainian literature; how to gain attention; authors towering above us; making Rachel Cusk known in Germany; Lutz Seiler's writing on the GDR; the growth in sales of English language books in Germany; publishing Hesse, Brecht and new voices; illness; the frozen sea within; the single reader counting most; enriching life; German publishers' sense of duty to society; Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon, and Sasha Marianna Salzmann's Beside Myself. 
69:07 8/19/22
Pamela Paul on her role as books editor at The New York Times
Pamela Paul was books editor at the New York Times from 2013 to March 2022 when she became an opinion columnist for the newspaper.    We talk mostly about the role that books editors play in the lifecycle of 'the book.' I also whine a fair amount about how I don't like the fact that she left her position plus we diverge into discussion about Pamela's recent opinion piece 'There's More Than One Way to Ban a Book.'   Topics tackled also include self-censorship in the publishing business (being a terribly perceptive observer of the book world I boldly assert that there must also be self-censorship going on at The Times itself); the importance of enabling all voices to be heard in the grand public debate; identity; Pamela's confident, informed, smart, pleasant presence on The Review podcast each week; her early ambitions for the books section; how the job changed her; how books are chosen for review; the role of preview editors and publicists; Pamela's guilt and sense of responsibility; and my love of her voice. 
71:27 8/13/22
James Marsh on making love and encyclopedias
Why listen to James Marsh? Because he knows about love and encyclopedias.    He grew up in The Junction district of Toronto surviving a difficult childhood, and began his career in publishing at Holt Rinehart and Winston where he was editor of a Centennial history of Canada entitled Unity and Diversity. He later became executive editor of McClelland and Stewart's Carleton Library Series, after which he was hired by Mel Hurtig as editor-in-chief of The Canadian Encyclopedia - the biggest printing/publishing endeavour in Canadian history.    We talk about his memoir Know it All: Finding the Impossible Country and about what he found; about encyclopedias striving for ideals; about historian Ramsey Cook and limited identities; selection by community; post-Centennial enthusiasm for Canada; economic nationalism; selling 250,000 sets of The Canadian Encyclopedia and then putting it on-line and making it "engaging;" the importance of conversation to democracy; Alberta premier Peter Lougheed; the woman with the two colour eyes; and the gift of friendship. 
48:19 8/7/22
Nick Anthony on why he's workshopping his controversial first novel
Nick Anthony is a writer, stand-up comic, and screen-writer. He's participating in this year's Prague Summer Program for Writers and his novel, tentatively entitled Two Hits of Acid in Cambodia, was just workshopped this past week. We talk about the experience, but not before discussing magic, stand-up comedy writing; new material that kills; God complexes; screen-writing; Tarantino's Django Unchained; suspense and humour; intelligence and humour; doubt; and Dave Chappelle. We then talk about workshops as focus groups, plus the importance of hearing the perspectives of better writers.  In addition we also look at Nick's novel itself, and how it references diversity in publishing from the perspective of a young white male writer; losing your best friend "to" life; what men look like post #metoo; and the skewering of what our culture thinks of sex.  Is it a play for Jordan Peterson's huge audience? Could well be. You be the judge. 
55:30 7/15/22
Alexandra Pringle on arm-hair and other secrets to great editing
Why listen to Alexandra Pringle? Because Richard Charkin told me that she's the best editor in the English speaking world, that's why.   Alexandra was editor-in-chief at Bloomsbury Publishing for more than two decades. She was recently appointed Executive Publisher.    She began her publishing career at the British magazine Art Monthly before joining the women's publisher Virago in 1978. She became Editorial Director in 1984, and moved to Hamish Hamilton in 1991 to undertake the same role. Through much of the 1990s she was a literary agent for, among others, Amanda Foreman, Geoff Dyer, Maggie O'Farrell and Ali Smith. She joined Bloomsbury in 1999 as head of the adult publishing division where her authors included Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sheila Hancock, Anne Michaels, Ann Patchett, George Saunders and Richard Ford. Among other things we talk about editing's "what if" conversations, about houseboats, socialism, building confidence, Harry Potter, tempering criticism, teasing, instinct, luck, and yes, arm-hair.     Note to Listener: My apologies. The Zoom connection was poor on this one. But what Alexandra has to say is delightful and informative, so I hope you'll agree with me that it's worth putting up with. I plan to interview her again. In person. With a good microphone. On her houseboat. 
50:31 7/11/22
Marius Kociejowski reflects on the Soul of the Book Trade
What's not to like here? Marius Kociejowski is charming, erudite and funny. Why should you listen to him? He's just written a memoir about the soul of the book trade. What happens in bookstores doesn't happen elsewhere​ he says. The multifariousness of human nature is more on show​ here​ ​t​han anywhere else, he says, and ​"​I think it’s because of books, what they are, what they release in ourselves, and what they become when we make them magnets to our desires.”​   The ​memoir is called A Factotum in the Book Trade.  We talk about it and the lives of the booksellers​, collectors and characters ​Marius has​​ lived ​with for close to five decades​. He reveals secrets and describes feuds. He gives us a wonderful feel for the workings of the London Antiquarian book trade over the past fifty years. Bertram and Anthony Rota, Bernard and Martin Stone, Bill Hoffer, Peter Ellis, Raymond Danowski. They're all here. Have a listen.    (speaking of which, listening that is, thank you so much to all of you who have so loyally listened to my podcast over the years. Your attention, feedback, and friendship, has meant a great deal to me. No, I'm not quitting. Just want to express my gratitude). 
70:13 7/4/22