Marias Not Much Longer with New Directions

As I’ve made pretty clear, today’s the day that Lady Chatterley’s Brother is available for general sale. You can still get it direct from this site by Paypal-ing me the money. It’s also now online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And you can preview the ebook and get more info here.

It’s more than a little sad that right as I publish a long essay on the works of Javier Marias I discover that he will not much longer be published by the legendary press that brought him to America. It seems that Marias’ contract with New Directions is coming up for renewal and the deep-pocketed Penguin has outbid them.

This, friends, is complete bullshit. New Directions has published Marias since the early 1990s. They had the smarts to realize what an impressive author Marias is, and they had the guts to take the chance that he wouldn’t languish, as do so many worthy international authors that never find the readership they deserve in English. Not just that–they has the worth ethic and publishing savvy to sell him to an American audience and make him work here in the States. And though, yes, New Directions has certainly benefited from their hard work for many years, it is nonetheless entirely wrong that another press can come and buy him up just like that.

Which is to say, go and buy Marias on New Directions while you still can. I’m proud to own all of his books in their ND incarnations. For me, they’ll always be the “true” editions of Javier Marias in English.

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Bullshit indeed. New Directions is still the finest press we have and has introduced important writers to the English reading world. A shame.

Read carefully–these sales were only for UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada). I’m sure the publicist at New Directions could give you a clearer idea of what’s going on.

Unless I’m wrong, New Directions will continue to publish Javier Marias in the US.

Jeffrey: Alas, this is U.S. too. ND has confirmed this . . .

I find this rather curious: Why this hostility towards Hamish Hamilton and Penguin? In the UK, his backlist was being published by Random House/Vintage. Is that also a problem? The Penguin Modern Classics deal for his backlist mentioned in the Bookseller article is for the UK, not the US. If his new novel does well – in the US or elsewhere, and whether it’s published by HH or ND – and brings him to a wider audience, his backlist will also thrive, and so therefore will the ND editions for as long as they’re in print.

… and even if they didn’t, and they move to another publisher, I still don’t understand the hostility. If ND can’t afford to renew the contract or acquire the new title, it’s sad but it isn’t “bullshit.”


On my end, at least, the issue is that ND has worked hard to bring Marias into the public eye and are really only now beginning to reap the rewards. While backlist sales are certainly a huge part of the game (especially for ND), the cumulative effort of the last decade plus of publishing him in the States is now being co-opted by Penguin. A new title combined with all of the recent press for Your Face Tomorrow and the recent story collection would do extremely well for ND. Instead, Penguin gets to pay the author (and I don’t usually feel this way but were it not for ND we wouldn’t even be having this conversation) for the investment ND has made in Marias.

I would never begrudge an author maximizing what s/he can make, nor am I surprised at this kind of a swoop (look no further than Melville House building up Fallada only for Penguin UK to undercut them at every turn for the rights), but I guess I kinda hoped this wouldn’t happen.

Penguin is owned by Pearson. Pearson is to education what News Corp. is to journalism.

I’ve been a huge ND fan for years. Their books are distinctive and their catalog wonderful. Yet the new contract wasn’t signed in a void. Marias had to agree to Penguin’s terms, or else refused in favor of his original publisher. If anything, this new contract exemplifies the great work of ND that a larger company feels they can take market him to a larger audience.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve read on this blog. Reading has nothing to do with the publisher; it really does not. Grove Press and New Directions published Borges first, and then Penguin outbid them and put out a much better three-volume collection. New Directions published Nabokov first and then Random House published everything. It’s the way things work in publishing and as long as you are getting the material, it hardly matters from where. (Think of Bernhard and University of Chicago, to be phased out by Vintage International, i.e. Random House, in vastly better editions.) And sorry to say it, but Marías is really not a good enough writer to inspire the kind of childish ‘bullshit’ crying that this seems to have engendered. He’s twice-chewed Faulkner with tippings of the hand at Proust but essentially nothing new, and nothing groundbreaking either.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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