The Questionless Books Interview: Publisher and Editor Alana Wilcox
Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, The Questionless Books Interview gets a host of lit-types (authors, editors, publishers, publicists, designers, booksellers, readers, bloggers, journalists, etc.) to finish a bunch of statements about the state of literature and the "future of books".
Alana Wilcox is the Editorial Director of Coach House Books and one of the founders of the uTOpia series. She’s the author of a novel, A Grammar of Endings, and she does a lot of book-industry advocacy work.
I am... a publisher, a pedant, a pugilist, and not afraid of alliteration.
I am known to... no one.
I do this in... the mid- to late afternoon.
I do this because... sometimes it’s hard to live and breathe books. One does get tired. For instance, the endless panels on ‘The Future of the Book.’ As though there were some doubt that there is one. Things are changing, really they are, in big ways, and we bookish sorts are a little afraid of change, generally, but it’s not so dire, I promise it’s not. I mean, it’s a good life, the booky life. Not the bookie life, I wouldn’t know about that. Though I do enjoy gambling, even a little poker. But now you see why editors are important. A good editor would cut this entire answer, as it meanders around a point without directly making it.
I do this when I... run low on chocolate.
The way I do this is... stealthily.
At its core, a Writer is... respectful enough of language and narrative to disrespect both.
As opposed to an Author, who is... the respectable public disguise of a writer.
A Writer is responsible for... gorgeous disorder.
As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for... making disorder look like order.
At its core, Publishing is... the act of unsuccessfully shoehorning art into capitalism.
As opposed to Editing, which is... generous scrutiny, and a privilege for both parties.
A Publisher should always... refuse the art/commerce dichotomy.
As opposed to an Editor, who should always... gently nudge authors away from asking incessantly about sales and ‘exposure’ and back towards words and sentences and ideas and other more important things.
A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is... less ready than you think it is.
As opposed to a Book that's ready to be ready by others, which is... more ready than you think it is.
A Manuscript should always... not be set in Times New Roman.
As opposed to a Book, which should always... have a spine — not a physical one, though that helps, but also some sort of cohesion and a little chutzpah.
At its core, Bookselling is... matchmaking.
As opposed to Book Marketing, which is... matchmaking, except that one of the parties probably forgot to fill out an eHarmony profile.
The smallest unit of narrative is... the gesture.
To be a Book a thing must be... not capitalized and italicized, as you’ve done here, George. Ok, ‘capitalized,’ yes, as in money, but can we all be less precious about the whole undertaking?
The biggest reason to be scared of the future is... we might run out of bananas.
The biggest reason to anticipate the future is... maybe they’ll figure out some kind of in-vitro thing for bananas, and cures for cancer, and new-fangled gadgets that will be really neat, and probably there will a lot more really amazing books we’ll get to read.
In the future we will all... be older. And saggier. And eat fewer bananas.
At his/her core, a Reader is... why we’re all doing this, right?