Dogs Rule Over Caro and Pamuk at Knopf's Party: Scene Last Nightby
Robert Caro recalls the heft and care given to `Power Broker'
Sonny Mehta credits `disturblingly dedicated' team for success
More than 40 years ago, Robert Caro took a draft of “The Power Broker” to Alfred A. Knopf -- all seven boxes of it -- where a guy asked him how many copies of his manuscript he’d brought along.
“One,” Caro said, recalling the moment at a party for Knopf’s 100th anniversary Thursday night.
Caro’s detail-rich, doggedly researched book about Robert Moses is still a must-read, even if it doubles as a doorstop. He’s stayed true to that formula in his series on Lyndon Johnson, and Knopf has stayed true to him.
“It took a lot of work to edit them, to have them come out as they should,” Caro said to a packed Astor Hall at the New York Public Library. “At a time when values are weakening, Knopf’s are unchanged.”
Sharon Olds read Chaucer. Toni Morrison recalled her very first book (in her pre-Knopf days) selling only 300 copies. Guests were treated to songs from Patti Smith, whose memoir “M Train” is due to be published Oct. 6.
Editor-in-Chief Sonny Mehta gave credit to his “disturbingly dedicated” team. “At least one has been working at Knopf for half a century.”
Maybe feeding them well helps with retention. Shrimp, cheese puffs and smoked salmon greeted guests at every suede-patched elbow. Those willing to leave the fray of agents, authors and editors discovered a table down the hall serving filet mignon with horseradish sauce.
The old-school, literary-lavish affair emphasized the art, not the business, of publishing good books. Markus Dohle, chief executive officer of Knopf’s parent, Penguin Random House, did not speak during the program and was seen deep in conversation with one of Knopf’s star editors, Jordan Pavlin.
Knopf has printed John Le Carre, Langston Hughes, Franz Kafka, Wallace Stevens, Judy Blume, Julia Child and John Updike. Every book carries the Knopf borzoi, an image of a Russian wolfhound in motion. More than 200 versions of the logo exist, including ones made for specific books.
Orhan Pamuk, who has a novel coming out soon, is particular about his borzoi: he only wants a realistic one, “not a stick figure.” For Bill Buford, the borzoi has become a haunting figure. “When I see one cross my path, it sends a message to my soul -- finish your book!” he said.
Perhaps that’s why Knopf stationed several real borzois on the steps. Unlike their logo counterparts, these ones stayed stationary eating dog treats, disappointing at least one guest. “They aren’t running,” Pamuk said.