Monday, June 07, 2010

Karp In His Own Words

This morning, I reported that Jonathan Karp will be taking over as publisher and Executive Vice President of the Simon & Schuster imprint next Monday.

I went back to find a post I had done last fall in which I talked about an article Mr. Karp had done for the Washington Post. I'm going to repeat part of that post:

In talking about Seabiscuit, one of his non-fiction books, Karp said:
"What I learned from editing that book was just how important it is for a book to actually leave you with a feeling. I had been a very analytical guy up to that point, in terms of my editing. For nonfiction, I had always assumed that if it made sense and was well written and had an important point to it, people would respect it and like it. But that isn't what it's about, ultimately. People have to be moved by it."
My love for genre fiction was imprinted on my soul at a very early age. I was a spooky little shrimp of a kid, all orange hair and freckles, and scared of my own shadow. I was also a huge fan of boys' books. I preferred the brash courage found in those novels over the pallid books written for girls. I can remember reading all of Edgar Rice Burroughs and all of Zane Grey.

As I look back on those days, I suspect I was vicariously trying on different emotional suits, learning how it felt to be brave and fearless and decisive.

Those "disposable" formulaic genre novels provided me with the hope that I would one day be able to step out of my corner and be audacious.

I've often said on this blog that readers seek specific emotions when they buy genre novels. And I don't think that need will ever go away.

The author of the interview asked Mr. Karp "about the three main reasons why people read . . ." He responded:
". . . there are three Es. People read for entertainment, education, or the expressiveness of the language. The best books combine all three . . . I was so amused that right after Seabiscuit, people began publishing all of these books about horse racing. They completely missed the point. The book didn't succeed because people were dying to read about horses. It succeeded because it was a beautifully written story that was emotionally satisfying and interesting from beginning to end."
Jonathan Karp completely won me over when, in talking about the only novel he'll be publishing next year, he said: ". . . it's one of these novels where characters reveal things that, in your own life, people never say out loud."

What a delicious thing to say about a book.

To read Mr. Karp's June interview in the Washington Post, go here.

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