I really wanted to like, no wait love, the novel Muse by the publisher and president of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Jonathan Galassi. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s a book about the publishing world and all the dirty secrets that us common folk know nothing about.
It’s centered around two rival publishing houses Purcell & Stern with Homer Stern at the helm and Sterling Wainwright, founder of Impetus Editions. Neither one is warm and fuzzy but being in charge of a publishing house has to be a brutal job. You are responsible for finding that new writer that is going to sell books by the miles and turn your publishing house into a place everybody wants to be published by.
You could also run your house and publish books that mean something to you and may put you in the poor house but at least you published what you felt was great literature. Now how can a novel about this topic and especially written by someone who is a true insider not be something that makes you want to turn the pages a mile a minute?
This is where Mr. Galassi should have called on his many editors and have them work on fixing some of the obvious faults of this first novel. The first hundred pages (it’s not a long novel) are a stop and start affair. Mr. Galassi gets bogged down in describing people and events that don’t really add anything interesting to the novel. All it really does is slow it down and begs you to ask the question, “Why is he telling me this?”
The story really only becomes interesting in the last third of the novel with the plot about Paul Dukach, who works for Purcell and Stern is asked to meet his poet idol Ida Perkins in Venice. Before that we get some very funny and telling scenes at The Frankfurt Book Fair.
Now this is not to say we don’t meet Paul earlier in the novel. We do and he seems to be the best drawn character. You feel for him and want him to succeed at his job of meeting his idol and unveiling the secret waiting to be told. The book best part is the poetry but that is no surprise since Mr. Galassi is a published poet and a very good one.
By the novel’s conclusion you feel like you can forgive Mr. Galassi for the rocky start and hope he writes a second one. But a quick synopsis from this reviewer would suggest a few words that every publisher dreads to hear: You may want to wait for the paperback on this one.