The Harper’s Take on the End of Publishing Just So … Harper’s

Ellen, please.

In this month’s Harper’s, Gideon Lewis-Kraus dutifully name-checks our “competent version” of the “standard story” about the end of publishing, but what interests us more in his highly digressive journey (not online) through last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair is his, well, nonstandard descriptions of the major players in the waning world of publishing. Here’s a sampling.

Agent Ira Silverberg: “In a baby-hedgehog-soft micro-waled chestnut corduroy suit over a pink-and-black striped shirt and an ascot-roll of gray-and-eggshell cashmere scarf, he will look around and say, regarding the general sartorial condition, ‘They try.’”

Grove publisher Morgan Entrekin: A “delicately bearish icon of shabby gentility.”

Canongate U.K. publisher Jamie Byng: “He’s a refined 1985 sort of rock star, like an Etonian Whitesnake … considered to be Morgan Entrekin’s heir as the industry’s boulevardier, the standard-bearer of unanswerable élan.”

Times publishing reporter Motoko Rich: “Seen as some kind of haruspex [a diviner of entrails],” with the “ticcy swivel of a meerkat scout,” “sharp and full of purpose;” “asks a few questions of the you’ve-won-three-Bookers-tell-us-how-it-feels ‘Variety’ variety.”

HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray: “His face has been harshly exfoliated, and his hair forms an obedient helmet of brushed-out grays. His pants are black and too shiny, and his tie, with purple and green diagonal stripes, makes me suspect it is one of only three he owns.”

HarperStudio publisher Bob Miller: “Sort of my uncle” via a grandfather’s second wife; “I was … raised to be skeptical of him, but over the past few years I’ve come to see him as a stand-up guy … decent, supportive, and very well-intentioned.”

Superagent Andrew Wylie: “Has the polished-granite dignity of a Gilded Age financier … an ice sculpture of a tropic general, a moisturized fist of virile elegance.”

British publisher Patrick Janson-Smith
: Like “Eric Idle performing a one-man parody of A Dance to the Music of Time.”

Random House CEO Markus Dohle: “A towering wolf-pack of muscles tapering to a freakish trapezoid; his suit jacket is tailored too tight across the bunchy expanse of his Teutonic Lou Ferrigno back, and he leans on the balls of his feet in an about-to-topple or -wrestle posture. These things conspire to make him seem elevated from a high rear center of gravity, as though he were hanging on a meathook between his shoulder blades.”

The Harper’s Take on the End of Publishing Just So … Harper’s