recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : russianriver   1

Eli Horowitz Wants To Teach You How To Read - BuzzFeed News
"This might all sound very precious, or very insufferable. But Horowitz is used to people feeling that way: It’s the same sort of criticism that’s long been levied at McSweeney’s, the indie publishing organization that Horowitz ran for the better part of a decade. The cabins expand upon the aggressively twee style that made McSweeney’s publications into bookshelf fixtures in Brooklyn studios and dorm rooms across the land, but the work Horowitz does in those cabins is anything but stale. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s true: He’s radically rethinking the boundaries of narrative and our expectations for the technology that surrounds us.

At the moment, Horowitz is commissioned to figure out a new form of audio tour for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and putting together the narrative puzzle pieces as a contributing editor of Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show podcast. He’s editing a narrative project called bcc that plays out in the form of a series of back-and-forth emails between two characters — on which the reader is bcc’ed. But most urgently, there’s The Pickle Index, his collaboration with developer Russell Quinn, which aims to effectively reconceptualize the book — in its digital and printed forms alike.

Horowitz helped change the book world once. Can he do it again?

Horowitz’s name is on five books; as an editor, he’s worked closely with dozens of authors, including those of Dave Eggers, indie filmmaker and artist Miranda July, essayist Wells Tower, Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates, and Denis Johnson. Every book he’s written has been optioned for film or television: The New World, published in May, was optioned by Olivia Wilde; The Silent History, a digital app turned paperback from 2012, is slated to become AMC’s new prestige drama. “Everyone who knows him thinks of him as their secret weapon,” July told me.

But to understand how Horowitz arrived at this position of would-be digital visionary, you need to understand a few things about McSweeney’s, and the attitudes at its core. Much of it can be traced, at least originally, to the ethos of Dave Eggers — who, in the early ‘90s, moved to San Francisco and launched satirical magazine Might and slightly less satirical lit magazine Timothy McSweeney’s Literary Tendency. In 2000, Eggers, then 30, published his unconventional memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which became a best-seller and a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize.
With Heartbreaking Work, what had been a largely San Francisco-based literary phenomenon went national, and the Eggers name — and McSweeney’s along with it — came to stand in for a particular mix of playfulness and sincerity, doubling down on the intrinsic value of the printed object as the specter of a digital, bookless future started to haunt publishing. McSweeney’s can thus be understood as an attitude (optimism), a tone (oscillating, dynamically, between sincerity and satire, but never irony), and a posture (open).

Enter Horowitz. “The mythic version of how I came to McSweeney’s is pretty much true,” he told me, settling into a couch at the cabin. “826 Valencia (a writing tutoring program launched by Eggers) was getting ready to start. They needed help building the place, and I had this mild carpentry background — I’d taught myself from a book — so I helped build the Pirate Supply Store,” the storefront attached to the tutoring center that sells McSweeney’s publications and, uh, pirating supplies.

“They needed someone to sit at the register,” Horowitz tells me. “So I did that, and I would read books, and Dave saw that. He was busy trying to finish his first novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity, and he was like, ‘Wanna read this and tell me what you think?’”
Three months later, Horowitz found himself the managing editor of McSweeney’s. “There wasn’t anyone else around to manage,” he admits. “Which was good, because I didn’t know anything. None of us had ever worked in publishing before.”

Horowitz says this, like he says everything, with a tone of slight bemusement. His work has a sense of humor that oscillates between wry and farcical. He loves digressions and declaring new sections of conversation: “Now that’s a topic.” He’s around 5’10”, and feels coiled, like you might get an electric shock when you shake his hand. Chris Ying, editor-in-chief of the food magazine Lucky Peach, which launched under McSweeney’s, describes his mind as “endlessly churning.” In his demeanor, like his cabins and his projects, there’s a sense of “the new sincerity” — a term from music and film criticism often affixed to McSweeney’s. He might joke about the shitty construction of the dumbwaiter he made to bring up his book to one of his sleeping lofts. But he deeply, unmistakably loves it.

Horowitz winds through the story of how McSweeney’s gradually became more and more of a thing. In 2003, there was the launch of The Believer, a sister publication for interviews and nonfiction, the second 826 outpost in Park Slope, Brooklyn; then, a slew of books with the McSweeney’s imprint, all solicited and edited by Horowitz. And the predictable backlash: In its inaugural issue, the literary journal n+1, largely composed of East Coast intelligentsia, railed against it, calling Eggers and his followers “a regressive avant garde.”

Through all of this, Horowitz was holding the place together. He didn’t have Eggers’ visibility or celebrity, but behind the scenes, he was refining the voice and sensibility of the organization. He was editing and fixing the printer and figuring out how to make the postage work when the new issue took the form of a mass of old-timey letters and pamphlets in a box. “He came up with some of the best and strangest concepts for the journal and for our books,” Eggers told me. “He embodies a rare dichotomy of being very organized and very calm, but also has the soul of an artist.”

McSweeney’s, I’m told by others who’ve lived through it, was like any other close-knit organization, literature-based or otherwise, in that it functioned somewhat like a cult. And when you were in, you were in deep: Everyone was breaking laws and cutting corners and fucking around and each other.

So when I ask Horowitz, who left in 2012, if he’s nostalgic for those years, he looks at his lap and makes a laugh that sounds like a sigh. He pauses, gathers himself, half-smiles.

“No. That’s not what I feel.”"



"Horowitz applied the same philosophy to his newest work, The Pickle Index, which tells the story of a delightfully unskilled circus troupe against the backdrop of a fascist dystopia, united by a forced devotion to fermented items. “There are all these different ways that you can read that are valid, so I wanted to fully imagine all of those formats. So: the book-iest book I could do, and the app-iest app. Even the paperback, and the Kindle version. They’ll have their own sort of thing, with different reaches and different audiences.” For the hardback version of The Pickle Index, you go back and forth, chapter to chapter, between two beautifully illustrated volumes, each around 100 pages. For the paperback, those chapters are integrated, this time with accompanying woodcut illustrations. And then there’s the app, which releases sections of the narrative over the course of 10 days.

Horowitz paid for the 5000-copy hardcover run himself; whatever profits it and the app makes will be his and Quinn’s. When I ask how he’ll know if the project is a failure, he pauses. “I don’t see how this project could fail,” he says. “It just is! It might turn out well, people might like it, I might think back on it more fondly or less fondly. But it can’t be a failure. Failure is when you’re trying to be the No. 1 photo sharing platform, and then you either are or you aren’t.

Which is something Horowitz is uniquely capable of saying, of course, from the cushion of one of the Airbnbs that effectively bankroll his experimentation.

It’s pitch-black along the River Road back to Eli’s other cabin. He points out a roadside establishment, TJ’s Grill at Angie’s George’s Hideaway, whose name pleases him greatly. He’s pleased so easily, really: by a good garage sale, or teaching himself how to fix something, however poorly, so long as he learns something in the process, or by the artist who creates simply for the process, the doing, of it. “I really believe in people who make things just because they want to make things. Like a guy who dies, and you look in his backyard and find 700 little sculptures of little dudes. Like that.”

That ethos, however, is alien to the structures of the mainstream publishing industry, which ask for pitches with concrete promises of a final product, a certain audience: concrete markers of success. The sort of things that are hard to think about when you really just want to fiddle your way through a process, living the platonic ideal of the artistic experience, unencumbered by monetary concerns. Which is why Russell Quinn described the unifying quality of Horowitz’s projects as “low risk.”

“A lot of Eli’s projects appear to be big and monumental,” says Quinn, who lives in a geodesic dome, a five minute drive from Horowitz. “But even his cabins come from a place where he would rather buy a cheap thing and do it his way than buy a suburban house and do it up. Same for projects: We like thinking about how we can do them just the two of us. Because Eli has to get past the point where he doesn’t hate what he’s working on, and he doesn’t want to do that publicly, or with backers, or selling the concept of a book before it’s written. It’s a low-key humbleness: not figuring things out until the end.”

That night, I sleep the sleep of the well-cabined, and the sunrise wakes me instead of an alarm. We have plans to explore the app for The Pickle Index, but once we open it, I’m … [more]
elihorowitz  suddenoak  thepickleindex  annehelenpetersen  2015  books  publishing  mcsweeneys  apps  applications  ebooks  epublishing  srg  826valencia  daveeggers  bookfuturism  russianriver  tumblr  twitter  digital 
december 2015 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read