How Staying Small Helps New Directions Publish Great Books

Bustillos-Staying-Small-New-Directions1-690x463-1455653353Maria Bustillos at The New Yorker:

It’s sometimes said, nowadays, that lifetime employment is a thing of the past, that rising through the ranks in a company is over, that publishing is a doomed enterprise, that the novel is dead (was it ever really alive?), and that poetry is deader still. By this reckoning, Barbara Epler’s career should not exist. But for more than thirty years, Epler, the president and publisher of the storied experimental publishing house New Directions, has been advancing the vision of James Laughlin, the poet, skier, and heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune who founded the company when he was twenty-two and ran it, for a time, from his aunt’s barn in Norfolk, Connecticut. His inaugural publication, in 1936, was an anthology featuring the work of Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Jean Cocteau, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and Henry Miller, among others: far-out stuff, back then. In time, New Directions would go on to become the first U.S. publisher of Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Roberto Bolaño, Anne Carson, W. G. Sebald, and László Krasznahorkai—a staggering list.

Today’s visitor to New Directions’ elegantly shabby offices, in Chelsea, may stand on the nineteenth-floor balcony beside Epler, who is in her fifties and has a big, throaty laugh, under a pair of carved stone lions silently roaring high above, downtown and the Hudson River spread out beneath, and be forgiven for thinking that he has somehow stepped into a lovely and improbable alternate universe.

more here.