Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (Paperback)
August 2013 Indie Next List
“Roger Straus, editor and publisher at FSG, was loved, loathed, feared, and admired, and the publishing house with which he came of age was (and still is) perhaps the mightiest producer of quality literature in America. Hothouse perfectly captures the often uneasy alliance of commerce and culture. Through anecdote and first hand reminiscences, Kachka weaves a compelling -- and sometimes hilarious -- history of 20th Century American publishing, involving the geniuses, egotists, and neurotics, namely most of the important voices in writing and publishing of a golden era of American literature.”
— Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose Books and Coffee Shop, Washington, DC
Farrar, Straus & Giroux is arguably the most influential publishing house of the modern era. Home to an unrivaled twenty-five Nobel Prize winners and generation-defining authors like Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Philip Roth, and Jonathan Franzen, it’s a cultural institution whose importance approaches that of The New York Times. But FSG is no ivory tower—and its untold story is as engrossing as many of the great novels it has published.
Boris Kachka reveals the era and the city that built FSG through the stories of two men: founder-owner Roger Straus, the black sheep of his German-Jewish family, and the reticent, closeted editor Robert Giroux, who rose from working-class New Jersey to discover the novelists and poets who helped define American culture. Giroux became one of T.S. Eliot’s best friends and played caretaker to manic-depressive geniuses like Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Jack Kerouac. Straus, the showman, made Susan Sontag a star, kept Edmund Wilson out of prison, and turned Isaac Bashevis Singer into a Nobelist.
After giving us a fresh perspective on the postwar authors we thought we knew, Kachka exposes how elite publishing works today. He gets inside the editorial meetings where writers’ fates are decided; he captures the adrenaline rush of bidding wars for top talent; and he lifts the lid on the high-stakes pursuit of that rarest commodity, public attention—including a fly-on-the-wall account of the confrontation between Oprah Winfrey and Jonathan Franzen.
Hothouse is the product of five years of research and nearly 200 interviews by a veteran New York magazine writer. It shares “a thrilling look at the heyday of the publishing industry” (Entertainment Weekly) and illuminates the vital intellectual center of the American Century.
“Swashbuckling . . . Exhaustively researched and sometimes gossipy . . . Hothouse is the hot book that book people are talking about, and understandably so.”
— Maureen Corrigan
“Gripping . . . [A] wonderful book . . . Hothouse is Pepys for our time, an unblinking account of publishing history as it was made by Roger’s firm, the last of America’s major independent publishing houses. Roger would have been thrilled to publish this fine book, including its frequent and deserved criticisms of himself.”
— Jason Epstein, The New York Review of Books
"Riveting . . . Stellar . . . A vivid narrative . . . Hothouse fits nicely on a shelf next to entertaining business books such as Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs or Michael Lewis’ Moneyball."
— Dallas Morning News
“Valuable . . . [A] vigorous and often diverting trot through the history of an important cultural institution . . . No one has previously anatomized a publishing house in such depth . . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, moreover, is well worth anatomizing. It’s had a larger-than-life central character, an amusing cast of secondary characters, and a history replete with drama. Most important, it has maintained an amazingly consistent level of quality.”
— Robert Gottlieb
“Hothouse simmers with gossipy tales of publishing . . . and [is] blessed with real-life characters who could star in any sexy novel. . . . It’s not a book just for intellectuals.”
— USA Today
“Vivid . . . Witty . . . Immensely enjoyable . . . Kachka sets forth a strikingly unexpurgated history of FSG, impressively researched, rich in anecdotes and journalistically balanced.”
— Michael Dirda
"Excellent . . . Hothouse is as engrossing as a biography of any major cultural icon."
— Elissa Schappell
“Hothouse is a thrilling look at the heyday of the publishing industry . . . [and] the man who, as Kachka points out, shaped the postwar intellectual tone in this country through the sheer dint of his brazenness and charm.”
— Entertainment Weekly
“Irresistible . . . Juicy history . . . A delectable story about the intersection of art, commerce, passion and personalities. . . . Hothouse feels like a party where you’re surprised to discover that you know—and admire—most of the other guests.”
— Los Angeles Times
“What is it about literary types? Oh, the sex! Oh, the emotional drama! And, oh, what tremendous fun it all is to read about when we’re in the hands of a writer who knows how to spin a savory tale. So it is with Boris Kachka’s delectably gossipy Hothouse, a deeply researched, jam-packed, surprisingly hard-to-put-down history of the eminent publishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux that escapes lit-nerd ghettoization by the sheer force of its storytelling. . . . Hothouse is a ripping read.”
— Laura Collins-Hughes
“Colorful history . . . Hothouse isn’t a management book; it’s a narrative of large personalities at play. Yet out of it comes a clear account of how to thrive in a tough commercial environment. . . . Kachka tells the story of the house’s ‘class-mass’ success in delicious detail.”
— Paul Elie
“Dishy . . . Entertaining . . . [A] vivid account.”
— Mary Dearborn
“A roaring chronicle . . . For anyone with a sweet tooth for the book world or a thought and a care for American culture after the Second World War, the book is a brightly lit, well-stocked candy store. . . . It’s also a superb business story, revealing how an enterprise became an institution. . . . [An] essential book.”
— Matt Weiland
“The truth about industry books is that they rarely interest those who live and breathe outside of the industry in question. In other words, people on the street rarely clamor for tours of the office buildings above them. The rare ability not only to lead the reader in, but induce him to want to stay and peer into the filing cabinets is what makes Boris Kachka’s first book Hothouse something of a masterpiece of business biography. . . . The real success of Hothouse lies in its telling, and Kachka manages a commanding momentum through decades at full wingspan.”
“A rough-and-tumble, heroic tale . . . Kachka takes us back to the black-and-white era when good old-fashioned hardcovers stood unassailably at the very heart of the culture. . . . I loved reading the spiky, spicy evocation of the company’s good old days.”
— Jonathan Galassi, New York magazine
“Scintillating . . . Crammed with delicious anecdotes . . . [A] compulsively readable tale of the creation, triumphs and tribulations of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.”
— Julia M. Klein
“A juicy account of the postwar New York book world . . . Not your average beach read, Hothouse, out August 6, is one nonetheless—a Gossip Girl for those fascinated with the literary elite.”
— Harper’s Bazaar, Summer 2013 “Hot List”
“Farrar, Straus and Giroux is the Versailles of American publishing. . . . But every palace has its intrigue, as Kachka shows us in this lively, witty account. . . . The extramarital (and often intramural) affairs conducted by publisher Roger Straus in the 1960s and ’70s were legendary—his wife called the company a ‘sexual sewer’—but the entire office apparently would have made Don Draper blush. Kachka dishes up these cold cases piping hot, but his research reveals an equally fascinating business story: How do you balance fine art and filthy lucre?”
— Mark Athitakis, AARP Magazine