What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
I’m looking forward to reading Karen Russell’s e-novella coming from Atavist Books, and I hope we’ll soon see the launch of more companies like them that are sufficiently well-funded to experiment with Web- or app-based writing. A lot of what’s been done with digital publishing so far looks essentially insecure, seemingly telling us that literature needs to be gussied up with images or film clips. We’re going to see lots of interesting and brilliant multimedia projects in the coming years, but most of them won’t be interested in what can be done with language per se. I want the writers to tell us what the possibilities of the form are. The future of literature needs to be bottom-up even if it might have to rely on top-down funding and programming.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
One of the most exciting experiences in publishing is reading a debut novel by an author who really excites you—a voice you haven’t seen that you are dying to usher into the world. You usually know if you’re going to fall in love within a few pages or even sentences. So I’m always ready for good fiction to fly over the digital transom. (Am I the last one whose first office actually had a transom?) I could do with a good bitter laugh; really well-written satirical fiction is hard to come by, though. As for nonfiction, who or where is the new Kapuscinski? I want to publish that person.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’m a never-say-never guy. A few years ago, I might have rolled my eyes at the mention of an addiction memoir, but then something like Stephen Elliott’s The Adderall Diaries (2010) comes along that seems to reinvent the genre. There are no dead subjects, just dead writing. The best writers help you see familiar things anew. Certainly it can be more challenging to find a fresh way to talk about certain kinds of stories—from the brutal but formulaic trajectories of addiction and abuse to the rutted inconsequence of post-collegiate malaise—but it’s not impossible, and as an editor, you always want to stay open to being nicely surprised.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Graywolf Press is a nonprofit publisher, and our mission-driven nature means that we generally make acquisition decisions based on literary merit alone. That doesn’t mean that we can ignore the market, but when we find an author with talent whose manuscript might contribute to a broad cultural conversation, we will figure out a way to publish it.
Ethan Nosowsky is editorial director at Graywolf Press. He began his career at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and was most recently editorial director at McSweeney’s. He has edited books by Jeffery Renard Allen, Hilton Als, Deborah Baker, David Byrne, Geoff Dyer, Dave Eggers, Stephen Elliott, J. Robert Lennon and Jenny Offill, among many others. He has taught in the creative writing program at Columbia University and contributed to Bookforum, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, and Threepenny Review.