Times a’Changin’



It was announced last week that Daniel Menaker, who, until recently, was executive editor of the Random House publishing group, will be going online come March, when he will host a new Web-based book show called "Titlepage."

The format will be a round-table discussion between Menaker and a group of four writers. The first episode, writes Times reporter Motoko Rich, "will be streamed online at titlepage.tv on March 3. The idea is to take advantage of the fact that it's much easier to post video online than to get a show on television."

According to the article, the new program will be part "Apostrophes," a popular French literary show; Public TV's "The Charlie Rose Show"; and "Dinner for Five," where a group of actors discuss their craft over a meal.

"The show is the brainchild of Odile Isralson and Lina Matta, documentary fimmakers. 'It's not really a brilliant idea in the sense that I grew up with it,' Isralson, 46, said. 'I'm originally from Belgium and I grew up watching "Apostrophes." I moved to New York in 1983 and always wondered why it didn't exist.' "

The two women approached Menaker last summer, wondering if he'd like to be host and also act as editorial producer. Menaker said that the idea appealed to him immediately since, both as publisher and an author himself, he never felt he had enough time to speak "directly to readers."

" 'We're hoping to let people listen in on the kind of conversation they might like to have themselves if there were a group of three or four people in a room,' said Menaker, who's married to Katherine Bouton, deputy editor of The New York Times Magazine, and has written a book of humor with Charles McGrath, a writer at large at the Times."

Writers on the first show will be Richard Price, who wrote Clockers and the forthcoming Lush Life; Susan Choi, author of A Person of Interest; and Charles Bock, whose first novel, Beautiful Children, has just landed in stores.

All of this is quite fascinating and indicative of how the coverage of books and publishing is changing almost as rapidly as the methods of publishing are being reinvented. But what I found most intriguing about the entire shebang is what it says about how the careers of literary-minded folks have also been transformed by the times in which we live.

Consider all that Menaker, 66, has done since he left Swarthmore 40-some years ago. He worked as a fiction editor at The New Yorker, one of the most coveted jobs in all of literature. He was at the pinnacle of Random House, one of America's premier publishers. He's written fiction, some of it published in The New Yorker and in book form by Knopf.

Fifty years ago, a literary type like Menaker would never have thought to lower himself — sully his reputation, in fact — by hosting a show on television. He'd be looking for a position as equally prestigious as those he'd had in the past. Or, at the very least, he'd be writing his memoirs. Indeed, the world is changing more rapidly than we realize. 



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