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cocktail on the avenue

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34 | AVENUE MAGAZINE • MARCH 2014

Korelitz frowned at the memory. “I mean, really? You are comparing a seventh grader to the level of the American Medical Association? And that was how we were all starting to think.” Now, with her and her husband’s Princeton sojourn over, the couple has returned to Manhattan, where she’s embarked on her newest adventure: BOOK THE WRITER. “For years in Princeton I ran this thing called the Meet the Author Book Club. I ran it as a benefit for an organization I was on the board of, so all the book group members made a donation to it. We had ten authors a year; they mainly came from New York. I thought, ‘I’m going to try and see if this can work on a fee-based model,’ because in New York, people are used to paying for unique experiences, really special ones, and it just doesn’t get any more special than this. “I’ve seen 12 years of this now, and there have been nights when people just walked out on clouds because it was so profound. I’m this evangelist for this experience; it’s a profound and beautiful thing to read a book, to love a book, and to sit down with the author and talk about the book. There are not many times in society when we get to do that.” Sipping her cocktail, Korelitz warmed to her subject. “Even if you love Michael Cunningham [The Hours, A Home at the End of the World], and he’s reading at Barnes & Noble and you get in line after the reading to say, ‘Michael Cunningham, I love your work!’ That’s all you are going to get. You should be able to sit down with Michael Cunningham and for two hours talk about why Whitman is so important to him, or why Claudia Roth Pierpont decided to spend five years of her life writing about Philip Roth and what she got out of that; what attracted her to him, what she learned from him. It goes so much deeper than the normal interaction we have with writers.” Korelitz has gathered an impressive list of names on the roster, including everyone from Zoë Heller to Rick Moody to A.M. Homes; and no doubt the list will grow in time. I asked her if, after a large dinner with wine involved, some of the authors end up revealing more than they meant to. Is there a confidentiality policy? “No, the most I ever did was when Steve Martin came—I told people, “We’re only here to talk about the book; we’re not here to talk about The Three Amigos. Do not bring anything to sign, except the book. And no cameras.’ He was great. He loved to talk about his work.” Korelitz said that choosing the price was one of the most difficult aspects of starting BOOK THE WRITER. The fee is $750 and the author gets $400. “When I started to talk to society people about the right number, all I heard was ‘too high’ or ‘too low.’ I never heard, ‘That’s just right.’ Finally, I had to stop waiting. To make it less makes it not viable for a writer, and not viable for me. To make it more makes it stupid, because nobody would pay more. Well, they would, but they shouldn’t have to.” Interestingly, Korelitz set the same price for each author. Once the cocktails had long since been drunk and the snacks scarfed up, Korelitz said she needed to head out, and so did I. As we parted ways, I couldn’t help thinking that this project sounded like a heavenly way to spend the evening, and I reflected on how I’d love to be a part of it. Now, I just need to find the right book club to go with it. For more information visit bookthewriter.com ✦

Profile for AVENUE Magazine

AVENUE March 2014  

Founded in 1976, AVENUE is a must-read among the city’s most discerning, stylish and savvy audiences. As Manhattan’s oldest society magazine...

AVENUE March 2014  

Founded in 1976, AVENUE is a must-read among the city’s most discerning, stylish and savvy audiences. As Manhattan’s oldest society magazine...

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