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Writers on Writing-The New York Times



Dear book friends,
    Today's New York Times has an interesting article by Brad Leithauser=20
which I found  satisfying as both a maker of books and aspiring novelist--=20
particularly as I begin printing and binding my first letterpress edition.
    Mr. Leithauser writes:=20
"One pleasure, however, seems as pure and imperishable as ever: the=20
satisfaction to be taken in a book's looks. Here is something both intimatel=
y=20
related to your book =E2=80=94 nothing less than the clothing it will wear o=
n library=20
shelves into perpetuity =E2=80=94 and yet detached from it. You can crow abo=
ut a=20
book's appearance with an abandon that would, for most of us, feel unseemly=20
if devoted to the contents themselves...

...When my first novel was accepted, back in 1984, I wanted to make sure tha=
t=20
it would have, like my first book of poetry, a full-cloth binding, rather=20
than the slightly cheaper three-piece binding (cloth spine, cardboard=20
composite boards) then favored by my publisher. When my request was turned=20
down, I asked my puzzled agent to rewrite the contract, reducing my advance=20
in order to cover the additional cost, at which point the amused editor in=20
chief, declaring, "Writers rarely volunteer to pay for anything," generously=
=20
agreed to swallow the cost...

...I'd extend the analogy to clothing. If as a conscientious parent you=20
wouldn't send your child out into a blizzard wearing a skimpy jacket, why=20
release your novel into a possible blizzard of icy reviews wearing an=20
inadequate dust jacket? Yet here the analogy breaks down. For there are=20
plenty of days =E2=80=94 the balmy days of spring =E2=80=94 when your childr=
en can go=20
outside dressed any way they please.=20

That's not quite true of books. The climate in Bookland is different. Perhap=
s=20
the weather will be gorgeous. But even when skies looks favorable, you can't=
=20
discount the possibility of sudden chilly winds, obliterating fogs,=20
hailstones the size of golf balls. Potentially it's always a very cold world=
=20
out there. And there's enormous comfort to be had in the assurance that=20
against such storms you've dressed your book as warmly =E2=80=94 lovingly=20=
=E2=80=94 as you=20
could. "

For the full text :
<A HREF=3D"http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/23/arts/23LEIT.html">
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/23/arts/23LEIT.html</A>

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