02/21/books/review/where-do- you-draw-the-line-between- commercial-and-literary- fiction.html?emc=edit_bk_ 20160219&nl=bookreview&nlid= 30242044&ref=headline
Let me approach the conundrum from the perspective of a once NY book editor who lacked both feel for even the ability to read “commercial fiction” and who not only published his share of literary novels - Hesse’s GOLDMUND, Nossack’s THE IMPOSSIBLE PROOF, Christa Wolf THINKING ABOUT CHRISTA T., Bataille’s STORY OF THE EYE & BLUE OF NOON, Peter Handke’s GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KIC, Innerhofer’s BEAUTIFUL DAYS, Michael Brodsky’s DETOUR, Ilja Ehrenburg’s THE LIFE OF THE AUTOMOBILE being weakest on that list yet most amusing for it being politically so parti pris, but who also translated Robert Musil’s novella THE PORTUGESE WOMAN, Hesse’s DEMIAN, Handke’s THE GOALIE’S ANXIET AT THE PENALTY KICK, Erich Wolfgang Skwara’s PLAGUE IN SIENA, Edgar Hilsenrath’s NIGHT, Josef Winkler’s FLOWERS FOR JEAN GENET, Robert Schindler’s WHEREBBORN and edited the translation of the amazing and unfortunately forgotten great novelist Uwe Johnson’s THE THIRD BOOK ABOUT ACHIM, and thus can be said to have a smidgen of knowingness what fiction and its truths can convey.
When I drifted into publishing in the 60s I felt halfway well-read and appreciated a wide range of novelists – the major writers in the Anglo-Saxon, German, Russian, French tradition – to have a sense of the truths that novels could convey, and remain amazed how the traditions keep delivering fascinating off-spring, but for John LeCarré I found myself quite unable to read beyond a few pages the so-called commercial fiction, and that has never changed and is unlikely to at this late date. I regard Le Carré’s truths those of non-fiction deriving as it does from a world that - much of an adventurer that I might be - I happened to get enough of a whiff of to know I wanted no part of. Thus it is not surprising that I never had a “commercial” novel submitted to me, yet most surprising that I had the most extraordinary editing experience with what was meant to be a commercial venture, Robert Kalich’s THE HANDICAPPER, the true life novelization of a millionaire handicapper’s involvement with the mob, eventually published by Crown, where I then met each colorful figure of the book – imagine editing a manuscript and its figures materializing as though you were schizophrenically fantastic! – quite a few indistinguishable from more legitimate folk, one of them Abe Costello’s best Jewish friend; and quite a few others of that ilk from associated mobs! And there I had thought to stay clear! And of course I pretty much did but for that one stimulating experience.http://artscritic.blogspot.
Rober Kalich, a serious writer who went on to write the partly very powerful TWIN LIFE and other books, straddles the littoral of commercial and metaphysical ambitions. Serious fiction leaves its many different marks in different ways upon the spirit – avails itself of very differing in-roads, and my most extraordinary fiction experience was when I opened the satchel with five manuscripts that Michael Brodsky – who had been sent to me via Patricia Highsmith & Peter Handke – and looked at the first page of each and realized “this is it, the real thing,” a serious writer, the raison d’etre the pay-off for being an editor.