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.
In poet Galassi's first novel, a book editor navigates the world of 21st-century publishing while unraveling the secrets of his lifelong hero, an octogenarian poet named Ida Perkins. The novel opens during the postwar literary boom, when nemeses Homer Stern and Sterling Wainwright launch competing houses P&S and Impetus, respectively. The protagonist, Paul Dukach, begins working at P&S in the '90s, when Union Square is still "the city's major needle park." The bulk of the story, though, transpires in the aughts, when Paul, driven by his obsession with Ida, befriends Homer's foe, Sterling, a cousin of the poet. When Sterling gives Paul the cryptic notebooks of Ida's late love to decode, the project becomes an occasion for a meeting with Ida. This meeting reveals her final, secret collection the contents of which, Paul realizes, have the potential to turn publishing upside-down. The fun of this book is watching Galassi, who serves as president and publisher of FSG, weave his fictional characters into real literary history and put his considerable gifts as a poet to good use. Indeed, Perkins' verses ("she smells the ozone" / "after love the fear") surpass Galassi's expositions on publishing and its ongoing war against Big Tech.