13 November 13 | Chad W. Post

If you’re into book industry news and whatnot, you’ve probably heard the story about Garth Risk Hallberg’s novel, City on Fire. Just to recap though, before the book had a publisher, Scott Rudin, the movie producer behind Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and No Country for Old Men, optioned the film rights. That’s a pretty rare situation, and basically ensured that a book deal was imminent. Well, a couple days ago it was announced that Knopf had bought the rights for almost $2 million.

From the New York Times:

“City on Fire” was written by Garth Risk Hallberg, a 34-year-old who has contributed to The New York Times Book Review and The Millions. Publishers who had a copy of the manuscript — and said they could concentrate on little else until they had finished reading it — rapturously compared it to work by Michael Chabon and Thomas Pynchon.

The book drew an advance that is highly unusual for a debut novel. In a two-day bidding war, 10 publishers bid more than $1 million. Knopf emerged the victor, paying close to $2 million, said two people familiar with the negotiations. [. . .]

Sonny Mehta, the chairman and editor in chief of Knopf, said on Sunday, “It’s a large, spacious and extremely ambitious novel. It has a richness to it, and that was really what I responded to almost immediately.”

As much as I kind of loathe the “publishing industry,” it’s totally bad ass that Garth got this money for a book that was initially 1,200 pages long. And given that the last time I saw Garth, he was reading Péter Nádas’s Parallel Stories (and pointing out that most critic who reviewed this seemed not to have read it . . .), I’m guessing that City on Fire isn’t going to be 900 pages of vampire shit and semi-erotic bondage. In fact, this may be the first “Big Book Deal” book that I’m actually excited to read.

To go back a step though, and to indulge in some momentary online navel-gazing, the thing that’s weirdest to me about this is that I’ve actually met Garth, officially making him the first person I’ve coffeed with to earn this much cash on a single book deal.

More to the point, Garth was on a Three Percent podcast last year to discuss this article about some contemporary novelists (Franzen, DFW, Zadie Smith, Eugenides, etc.).

You NEED to listen to the opening of this podcast—it’s a harrowing thought (that you only have XXX number of books left to read in your life) followed by a bit of Garthian wisdom.

Also, I want to thank Garth for being the indirect inspiration for the funniest thing I ever wrote—a play-by-play recap of my battle with Skype/Moneybookers.

And for more info on Garth and what little is known of City on Fire, check out Boris Kachka’s FAQ on GRH.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

Read More >

The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

Read More >

Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

Read More >

Iraqi Nights
Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .

Read More >

Three-Light Years
Three-Light Years by Andrea Canobbio
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .

Read More >

The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

Read More >

Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

Read More >

Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .

Read More >

Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

Read More >

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

Read More >