Muse: A novel Audiobook, by Jonathan Galassi Play Audiobook Sample

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Author: Jonathan Galassi Narrator: Arthur Morey Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Length: Release Date: June 2015 Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download ISBN: 9781101913987

Publisher Description

From the publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux: a first novel, at once hilarious and tender, about the decades-long rivalry between two publishing lions, and the iconic, alluring writer who has obsessed them both.

Paul Dukach is heir apparent at Purcell & Stern, one of the last independent publishing houses in New York, whose shabby offices on Union Square belie the treasures on its list. Working with his boss, the flamboyant Homer Stern, Paul learns the ins and outs of the book trade—how to work an agent over lunch; how to swim with the literary sharks at the Frankfurt Book Fair; and, most important, how to nurse the fragile egos of the dazzling, volatile authors he adores.

But Paul’s deepest admiration has always been reserved for one writer: poet Ida Perkins, whose audacious verse and notorious private life have shaped America’s contemporary literary landscape, and whose longtime publisher—also her cousin and erstwhile lover—happens to be Homer’s biggest rival. And when Paul at last has the chance to meet Ida at her Venetian palazzo, she entrusts him with her greatest secret—one that will change all of their lives forever.

Studded with juicy details only a quintessential insider could know, written with both satiric verve and openhearted nostalgia, Muse is a brilliant, haunting book about the beguiling interplay between life and art, and the eternal romance of literature.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • Entertaining . . . The rivalries of the literary world animate this debut novel, which follows Paul Dukach, a rising editor at one of New York’s last independent publishers; his boss, Homer Stern; and Sterling Wainwright, the head of their main competitor. All three are captivated by the same woman, the poet Ida Perkins, who is revered by Paul, pursued by Homer, and published (and occasionally bedded) by Sterling. Paul’s career takes flight when Ida entrusts him with an explosive secret. Muse is a testament to the purity of the written word, and the turmoil that can be required to get it on paper.

    - The New Yorker
  • Compelling . . . Galassi propels his readers forward on a thought-provoking, often hilarious, bittersweet ride. That he manages to keep his literary Uber on the road and out of the ditches is a tribute to his skill as a writer and storyteller. Muse is a kind of mystery: not so much a who-done-it but a more satisfying who-felt-it, who-experienced-it, who-saw-it-for-what-it-really-was . . . It is also a roman à clef, and its pages are populated with characters both real and imagined. Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway are mentioned in the same breath with fictional characters, some based on real legendary lions, such as Roger Straus and James Laughlin. Galassi even tips his hat to some of his contemporary confrères, distributing their last names among his characters. Anyone intimate with New York publishing can use Muse as a kind of parlor game for rainy nights; put out the brie, pour the Chablis, and try to find Lynn, Binky, Mort, Esther, and Sonny hiding in the pages. Yet somehow, Galassi prevents his journey from becoming too sentimental, offering instead top-shelf satire in the portrait he paints of the narcissism and pettiness that still is New York publishing—the jealousy and backstabbing among writers, the faux-intellectual preening and dirt-dishing by the editors, the cravenness and hypocrisy of the publishers. While his characters may do foolish things, they are committed to something much bigger than their egos—Literature with a capital L, enduring works that change opinions, politics, culture, and lives . . .The potential unraveling of Paul’s future makes the need to untangle his past, and Ida’s, all the more immediate and meaningful for the reader. Galassi brings an elegiac quality to the novel’s themes of love, loss, and reading in just the right amount, adding depth and richness to a bravura first novel.

    - Robert B. Wallace, Los Angeles Review of Books
  • Entertaining . . . Muse’s hero, Paul Dukach, is an ambitious tyro in 21st-century publishing [whose] fascination with his poetic heroine leads him to becomes an acolyte at more than one altar. What he discovers along the way will turn the literary world upside down. But that world is already in turmoil, as the author wittily demonstrates. Galassi knows the territory better than most, since he’s president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux . . . Can a novel that winks so knowingly at a certain group of readers succeed in broader terms? I reckon so. Galassi’s ventriloquism makes for striking verse. And his riffs on fame itself are spot-on; I kept thinking of Being John Malkovich . . . He gives us an alternate world in which we might, really, listen to a poet. [And] he pokes clever fun at the society that Paul and he himself inhabit . . . Paul’s journey is an honest one—into himself and into the truth of what he loves. Muse is many things: a satire of New York’s social world, a portrait of publishing that is both love song and takedown, and an intriguing mystery. But beneath the book’s sometimes brittle surface lies the belief that literature can change lives. Yes, the business of books is changing. But what’s written on the pages remains just as powerful, just as real—and few know that better than Jonathan Galassi.

    - Erica Wagner, The New York Times Book Review
  • Entertaining, keenly observed, incisive . . . a literary echo chamber haunted by the ghosts of two classics—Philip Roth’s The Ghost Rider and Henry James’s The Aspern Papers. Galassi draws on his own longtime experience to give readers a tactile portrait of the New York literary world in ‘the good old days’ when publishing was a gentlemanly profession, and ‘books were books,’ their contents ‘liquor, perfume, sex and glory to their devotees.’ In Ida [Perkins], Galassi—who is himself an accomplished poet—has created an avatar of a vanished era in which poets could be huge celebrities, and gives us some charming examples of her work . . . Muse—much like John Updike’s early Bech books—leaves insiders with a knowing portrait of the publishing world before the digital revolution, and gives outsiders a gently satirical look at the passions and follies of a vocation peopled by ‘fanatics of the cult of the printed word.’

    - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times“A fictional send-up of New York’s publishing industry, by one of its real-life members. Galassi chronicles the rise of an ambitious young editor [who] must juggle the high-brow pursuits of the literary life with the vulgarity of commercialism. While industry insiders will likely recognize veiled references to key players in publishing, outsiders will giggle at Galassi’s accounts of aggressive agents, arrogant authors and barbaric book fairs.
  • Charming . . . an enjoyably incestuous tangle of life and art, with allusions that branch beyond the insular realm of New York publishing into American literary culture . . . The heroes of Galassi’s first novel are a pair of ‘gentlemanly thieves

    - which is another way of saying that they are book publishers in New York. Like his heroes, Galassi, who is an accomplished poet and translator, has spent a lifetime in that sordid and sophisticated world; his novel is a camouflaged depiction of the ‘swarming dunghill’ of publishers, editors, and agents who are the power brokers of the literary elite. While the book is laced with nostalgic affection, its primary ingredient is exuberant gossip . . . The tussle between high art and crude commerce, between publishing as a noble calling and a seamy business, generates much comic posing throughout . . . The model of passionate and egotistical publishers shaping the industry has faded by the novel’s end, but the preceding pages preserve the quirks and charms of a colorful era in literary culture.
  • Accomplished, entertaining . . . affecting . . . Muse adds still another gold star to Galassi’s literary report card . . . It is a tribute to the world of book publishing in which he came of age and made his mark, [when] the book, not the bottom line, was the focus . . . In wistful words that sometimes read like sadness set to music, Galassi captures all of this collaborative joy and heartache, and more, in a fond farewell to yesteryear—and a guarded hello to the digital age in publishing.

    - Robert Lamb, New York Journal of Books
  • The first novel from the poet and critic Galassi is a long-awaited, and worthwhile, event. Galassi’s main character is the heir to a prestigious publishing house who becomes the confidante of his favorite writer, a poet whose personal life is as famed as her writing.

    - Nicole Jones, Vanity Fair
  • Witty . . . delicious. Galassi—a publisher, poet and translator with decades of inside knowledge of the publishing industry—uses his background to great effect in this a slyly sophisticated roman à clef. He slips the fictitious poet Ida Perkins into the 20th century literary canon and puts her at the centre of a literary competition between publishers.

    - Jane Ciabattari,, Ten Books to Read in June
  • Complex and heartbreaking . . . Galassi’s fictionalized vision of publishing, even subtracting the veneer of satire, is simultaneously romantic and problematic, [an] otherworldly amalgam of the real, the satiric and the entirely imagined . . . a Mad Men world that’s white, wealthy and male. Muse traces publishing’s trajectory from a confident, martini-lunching old boys’ club to a more enlightened industry plagued by the uncertainty brought on by a brave new world . . . It is, in some respects, a love letter for a bygone time, [without] the miserliness of that genre. At the heart of everything these people do is  a profound love of literature. The novel leaps to life when we [meet] Ida Perkins, a poetry superstar. Muse reads like a memoir of sorts, told, as befits a sophisticated teller, with all the tools at his disposal—satire, a touch of postmodernism, the roman à clef, and naturally, romance.

    - Alana Wilcox, National Post (Canada)
  • Part satire, part fantasy, and unabashed in its affection for the world of publishing, Farrar, Straus & Giroux president and publisher Galassi's first novel is a captivating roman à clef, written with the insight and wit of a true insider. An accomplished poet, Galassi effectively deploys both his knowledge of that art form and of the business of producing books in this clever story . . . Whether it's a trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair or a dinner with the founder of an Amazon-like e-tailer, Galassi delivers realistic glimpses of pressures that loom over the traditional book business today. Equally pleasurable are his flights of fancy: a world where first editions of poetry books sell 750,000 copies and where the death of a beloved poet spurs the president to declare a national holiday; where literature occupies the center of the cultural conversation, rather than being exiled to the provinces inhabited by academics and a handful of acolytes. For all the wistfulness of its backward-looking glance, Muse is anything but a nostalgia trip. Instead, this gentle, wry novel should reinforce the belief of anyone who loves books that the survival of the world Galassi portrays is worth fighting for. A sharp and affectionate look at the contemporary publishing business.

    - Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
  • Galassi’s first novel, which charts the rivalry between two Manhattan publishing houses, is packed with lively secrets and insider gossip from the world of literature.

    - Entertainment Weekly 
  • An insider's look at book publishing spins a fable of egos, literature, and commerce in which an editor’s obsession with a poet leads to the revelation of a crucial secret. Galassi is a poet and translator and, for his day job, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In this fiction debut, he imagines the gifted and beautiful poet Ida Perkins, cynosure of men literary and otherwise. A critics’ darling from her first collection at 18, she soon [becomes] that rarest of phenomena, a profitable poet. Her fortunate publisher is a WASP from old New England money, and his chief rival is a savvy, foulmouthed Austrian Jew who racks up more Nobels than any other house—except Farrar. The obsessive is Paul Dukach, whose first meeting with Ida brings him and the story to the ultimate collision of private person and published writing. Galassi conveys the thrill of being dazzled by literature . . . He also has fun with the language of reviewing while delivering a casual seminar on American poetry; an extended riff on the Frankfurt Book Fair bespeaks years of painful firsthand experience . . . A worthy psalm on the pre-Amazon, pre-digital days of publishing that anyone might appreciate. Galassi rates praise especially for choosing to have some knowing fun with his years in the business.

    - Kirkus (starred review)
  • We know Galassi as president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, as the author of three collections of poetry, and as an icon in the publishing industry. Now we get to know him as a debut novelist. Not surprisingly, Galassi writes about publishing itself, and it will be fun to match fiction with real-life fact. Paul Dukach is heir apparent at Purcell & Stern, hanging on in seen-better-days offices near Manhattan’s Union Square (much like Farrar’s) as one of the few remaining independents. Right now, he’s after Ida Perkins, a dazzling and culturally significant poet (yes, poetry matters!) whose longtime publisher, also her cousin and sometime lover, is a major rival of Paul’s boss. When Paul seeks out Ida at her Venetian palazzo, he learns a startling secret.

    - Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal 
  • Jonathan Galassi has accomplished that most difficult of tasks, which is to write a lively and interesting novel about book publishing, many scenes of which brought back to me vividly what book publishing is (or used to be) like: larger than life figures (at any rate in their own minds), impossible authors, intense rivalry, and daily drama. It will explain to hoi polloi what book publishers do when they’re not lunching, and to those in the industry it will present a fascinating roman-a-clef puzzle to solve.

    - Michael Korda, author of Queenie and Another Life 
  • You don’t have to work in publishing to enjoy Muse, a story that draws a lot from the writer’s own experience. In his time at FSG, Galassi ushered some of the most esteemed writers into the literary landscape, including Jonathan Franzen. There are plenty of recognizable characters; Galassi also has a clear love of words and the types of people, both publishers and authors, who are behind them. He’s concerned with the ‘romance of reading,’ and those who ‘were loyal to their own sometimes twisted yet settled natures, modern in the old-fashioned sense.’

    - Michele Filgate, Salon
  • Unusual and beguiling . . . Galassi imbues his offbeat tale with emotional intensity and a lingering resonance.

    - Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Miami Herald
  • Galassi's debut novel reads with the exuberance of a man half his age and with intellect of a successful businessman. The trend of writers writing about novelists is nothing new, [but] what separates Galassi is that his vast knowledge and experience provides him with chops to fully encompass the literary world. The novel centers around two publishing houses, a revolutionary poet, and an editor who gets caught in between it all. The job of a novelist is to make a world come alive, and by the end of Muse, many will be Googling Ida Perkins to see if she was a real poet . . . Galassi has a treasure trove of information which he supplies to readers in great, and gorgeous detail. Muse is a novel that displays a love and passion for literature by one of the most decorated members of the industry. Call it a passion project, a memoir of sorts, a love letter to beautiful writing: Galassi has been inspired by his Muse.

    - Steven Petite, The Huffington Post
  • Excellent. A valentine to a half-remembered, half-imagined world: a tale of two literary publishers who for decades have jousted with each other for the affections—and copyrights—of one Ida Perkins, a modernist master with the shimmering technique of Marianne Moore, the erotic frankness of Anne Sexton, and the massive readership—well, of no poet who ever lived in the 20th century, but we can dream, can’t we? The fulcrum of the story is a young editor-in-chief whose ongoing obsession with Ida’s life and work that leads him into a chain of events that culminates with a bombshell of a gift: a final manuscript whose contents, once published, will transform all their lives . . . A terrific novel—a crackling good story [in] sparkling prose.

    - Kevin Nance, USA Today ***
  • Fascinating . . . Muse is built around a charming premise: that an important American poet could become as famous as a pop star, a screen siren or an athlete. Here we are in the midst of fantasy, but a fantasy not far, as Galassi’s novel eloquently illustrates, from the one inhabited by people in the literature business. It is one of the pleasures of Muse to watch Galassi mix his fictional literati with the real ones. Among the deepest themes of this book are the entanglements of love, judgment, business, art, narcissism, craft, and the power. The work [Galassi] gives Ida is strikingly charming and direct—inward-looking and meditative. But I suspect that Ida is less a specific person than the idea of what a writer means to those committed to literary life. It’s not just the literary gift—it’s also the impulse to embrace and surrender to it—this magic knot of art and character. Longing for a vanishing métier and its muse forms the novel’s love story, and the love story of the world it affectionately eulogizes.

    - Ann Kjellberg, The New York Review of Books
  • In poet Galassi’s first novel, a book editor navigates the world of 21st-century publishing while unraveling the secrets of his lifelong hero, a poet named Ida Perkins . . . The fun of this book is watching Galassi weave his fictional characters into real literary history and put his considerable gifts as a poet to good use.

    - Publishers Weekly
  • Charming . . . A novel about a world that exists in memory: an industry still spoken of reverentially as a noble calling rather than a business.  Its hero is a bookish young man from upstate New York who is drawn to the down-at-the heels glamour of book publishing. Muse is two parts valentine, one part satire, a loving send-up of a very specific culture. [Here] is a world where intrigue takes the form of a decades-long battle over who gets to publish a charismatic, talented and audacious poet, a writer of sensual poetry with an outsized popular appeal. A reader would not be wrong to see parallels between the characters in the book and industry legends.

    - Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke, New York Observer
  • “A witty, elegant, tons-of-fun debut novel. Jonathan Galassi has got all the dirt on the publishing industry and he is ready to dish. But he also takes us from Union Square and a hideaway country cottage to Venice, for a love story all his own.

    - Gary Shteyngart
  • “Packed with lively secrets and insider gossip from the world of literature.”

    - Entertainment Weekly
  • “Excellent. A valentine to a half-remembered, half-imagined world…A terrific novel—a crackling good story [in] sparkling prose.”

    - USA Today (4 stars)
  • “Muse is a testament to the purity of the written word and the turmoil that can be required to get it on paper.”

    - New Yorker
  • “Galassi captures all of this collaborative joy and heartache, and more, in a fond farewell to yesteryear—and a guarded hello to the digital age in publishing.”

    - New York Journal of Books
  • “Galassi brings an elegiac quality to the novel’s themes of love, loss, and reading in just the right amount, adding depth and richness to a bravura first novel.”

    - Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Galassi imbues his offbeat tale with emotional intensity and a lingering resonance.”

    - Miami Herald
  • “Galassi’s spikily tender send-up of the publishing world is fortunate to have a narrator with Arthur Morey’s keen sensibilities. Morey delivers a first-rate performance, building plausible characters who range from self-serving to heroic… Morey makes Galassi’s debut memorable listening.”

    - AudioFile


  • A BookPage Top Pick in June 2015 for Literary Fiction
  • One of the BBC’s Best Books to Read in June

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About the Author

Jonathan Galassi is the president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux and the author of three collections of poetry, as well as translations of the Italian poets Eugenio Montale and Giacomo Leopardi. A former Guggenheim Fellow and poetry editor of the Paris Review, he also writes for the New York Review of Books, New Republic, and other publications.

About the Narrator

Arthur Morey has won three AudioFile Magazine “Best Of” Awards, and his work has garnered numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards and placed him as a finalist for two Audie Awards. He has acted in a number of productions, both off Broadway in New York and off Loop in Chicago. He graduated from Harvard and did graduate work at the University of Chicago. He has won awards for his fiction and drama, worked as an editor with several book publishers, and taught literature and writing at Northwestern University. His plays and songs have been produced in New York, Chicago, and Milan, where he has also performed.