Morgan Entrekin
 Publisher, Grove/Atlantic

I first met Morgan in 1993 when he presented his Spring list to all of reps in the old PGW offices in Emeryville, CA. I was still relatively new to publishing then, having just spent the last 22 years selling those particular finished products from a variety of different bookstores. There wouldn't have been that many of us in the room back then, just the reps and a few marketing folks. Publisher after publisher came and went, all telling us about each book and why it was so amazing. When the Grove/Atlantic team arrived and sat down, I could tell by the way everyone in the room got very serious that I should pay special attention. It didn't take long to understand why. Morgan's publishing company was the most professional and important one I had seen so far. Their list was strong, with high quality authors and smart marketing plans. "This man knows what he's doing," I thought. He really made an impression on me. And, of course, I was correct. Grove/Atlantic is now one of the premier publishers in this country and have been the standard bearer for PGW ever since.

Through the years of selling and promoting Morgan's books, I have had the honor of meeting, and in many cases becoming friends with, a great number of his authors. Here are just a few of the great writers I have known, some highlighted in this very blog through the years:

I have interviewed numerous booksellers and authors in this blog so I thought it was time to interview a publisher for once. My first choice had to be Morgan Entrekin.

When Jon asked me if he could profile me for his wonderful blog I was of course honored. Jon and I have worked together for more than 20 years and he has helped shepherd so many Grove Atlantic books and authors into the world, most notably a first novel we published in 1997. With Charles Frazier’s COLD MOUNTAIN we knew we had a special novel and our strategy was to start in the South and build from there. Well, the rest is history. Jon is one of the greatest publisher reps of our generation. I will forever be in his debt and I and everyone at Grove Atlantic will miss him.

Tell me about where you live and why you love it so much.
I live in NYC, in Manhattan in Chelsea.
I love it because I can walk to work and walk to my son’s school. Because it is the center of the publishing industry, I get to see so many writers, publishing colleagues, international publishers. I love it because of the constant buzz, the street life, the great food vendors, the theater, the restaurants, diversity, weird little shops, museums and one of the greatest opera companies in the world. 
Where were you living when you were 7 years old? Are they fond memories?
I was living in Nashville. I have wonderful memories of my extraordinary family—my incredible mother and father, my wonderful siblings, my loving grandparents, my aunts and uncles and many cousins (eventually 14 first cousins on this side of my family though not all of them born when I was 7). We all lived in the same neighborhood and I was often at my cousin William’s or my cousin Frank’s house. Once a week we had dinner at my grandparents’ house and every holiday we all gathered there to celebrate. I have always known how fortunate I was to have such a great family but as I have gotten older I have realized even more how truly blessed I am. It gave me a sense of security and a strong foundation as I moved out into the world.
Did you have a favorite teacher and are you still in touch with him or her?
I liked many of my teachers—in general I liked school. My first-grade teacher Mrs. Craig and Mrs. Hale who I had for both 5th and 6th grade were special. The teacher that had the greatest influence on me was Mrs. Lowery who taught senior English at Montgomery Bell Academy, the boys’ school I attended from 7th to 12th grade.

She inspired me with her love of literature and language and taught me how to read and write critically. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago. She loved to quote Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech and when I was lucky enough to be invited to the Nobel Prize ceremony in 1994 when Grove author Kenzaburo Oe won the Literature Prize, I brought Mrs. Lowery some souvenirs from the dinner—the menu and some chocolates in gold foil in the shape of the prize.  
Is there a book that changed the way you look at life? 
More than one: William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.


Do you have a favorite children’s book and what about it makes it so? 
E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is just about perfect.

What are the funniest or most embarrassing stories your family tells about you?
I think you would have to ask them.

Okay I did, I reached out to Morgan's baby sister Mary, shown in the bassinet below, for some memories. Here they are:

Oldest to youngest, Morgan in back center, Hughie on right,
Janie on left, Mary

Here's the ever dapper Morgan and a friend with an all girl band at a combo (dance) probably in early high school. 

Being Morgan’s younger sister has always come with perks and challenges. With six years between us, I was only 12 and very much caught up in my own world when he left for college and started growing his hair long, feeling liberated by the west coast culture at the Stanford of the early 1970’s and no longer being constrained by the strict boys prep school short hair policy he fought to get changed as President of the student body his senior year.

When I was 24 and he was 30, I moved to New York and really started to enjoy the benefits of my big brother’s sphere of influence. My friends and I had zero potential for getting into the hottest night club of the moment. But when we joined Morgan for a night on the town, as soon as he was spotted by the bouncer, we would be ceremoniously whisked into the entrance past the long line of hopeful patrons eager for a glimpse of Andy Warhol or some other celebrity.  Area  is the one I most remember. 

Morgan has had an amazing career and so many wonderful and interesting friends. His friend (and one of his writers, if I remember correctly) Harry Hurt was very much a part of the New York City 1980’s scene when I was there. One funny thing I remember was when Morgan and Harry teamed up for a very serious croquet tournament in The Hamptons, or maybe Amagansett or Sag Harbor. 

As I recall, they came close to winning the whole thing and had some serious croquet players quite angry at their less than serious, but very effective approach to the game. 

I have always watched with awe and pride as Morgan has managed to work hard, play hard, and maintain an immovable sense of integrity while achieving ever-higher levels of success. It was a highlight for all of his siblings as we watched him be honored with the  Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction last December.

How did you first meet your wife Rachel? How did your first date go?
I met Rachel at the Explorer’s Club in NYC at an event for a photo book I published by a friend of hers. On our first date I took her to a simple  French bistro called L’Acajou, not knowing that she had spent a lot of time in France since she was a teenager. The date went well. In fact, after talking to her for a while and learning more about her childhood in Texas, her time in France and her career as a photojournalist, traveling around the world, working for Time and Newsweek and the New York Times, I told her that I felt like we were from the same tribe. 

                                                                           Rachel Cobb           

  A British friend who met Rachel and saw how well-matched we were heard that story and asked me what tribe that was. I had never given it a name but after a moment I said, “It’s the International Bohemian Southerner tribe,” which is a small tribe.

Charlie Winton

How did you first meet Charlie Winton, founder of PGW? What made you decide to be associated with his company?
I met Charlie at Stanford most likely at a party where we were experimenting with various mind-altering substances. In 1993, after we merged Atlantic Monthly Press and Grove to form Grove Atlantic, I reached out to Charlie. I admired what he had created at PGW and thought we would be a good fit.

Paul Auster
Is there an author that you decided not to publish that now you wish you had?
When I was a young editor at Simon and Schuster I had a chance to publish Paul Auster. I had read his City of Glass trilogy and though I knew it wouldn’t be simple to sell him—or convince the S & S Editorial Board to allow me to offer—I have always regretted not trying to take him on.
Is there a song that you listen to when you are feeling a bit down?
Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison or almost any song from Jimmy Cliff’s album The Harder They Come. 

                              In fact, almost any reggae song makes me happy.
I love this Deborah Feingold photo of you. How are you a different person now than you were 30 years ago? 


Thankfully I am calmer and more settled, happily married to Rachel (whose first book, an incredible photo book Mistral: the Legendary Wind of Provence, is coming from the great Italian publisher Damiani in October—distributed in the US by DAP) and thrilled to be the father of a wonderful 12 year old son who just earned his black belt in karate.
And finally Morgan, in a short essay…………………………

 to any period from before recorded history to yesterday,
be safe from harm, be rich, poor or in-between, if appropriate to your choice,

actually experience what it was like to live in that time, anywhere at all,
meet anyone, if you desire, speak with them, listen to them, be with them.

When would you go?
Where would you go?

Who would you want to meet?

And most importantly, why do you think you chose this time?

 So Jon sent me the questions to answer which I got back to him I think within an hour. But then there was this essay to write “If you could have lived in any time and place in history where and when would you choose?” Wow, I thought to myself, I didn’t know I signed up for this. But then I thought about it and had several ideas. 

I grew up in Nashville and went to college at Stanford. I choose Stanford because they had the best undergraduate art history department in the country and because I had seen a feature in Playboy magazine when I was 16 that featured nude sunbathing on the red tile roof of one of the dorms. After 6 years at a boys school I was ready for that (and ended up being assigned freshman year to that very dorm—though the nude sunbathing had been dialed back). 

Anyway I was going to major in art history and I decided that I would start at the beginning with courses on Neolithic, Stone Age and early Iron Age art, Art of the Mesopotamian basin, Egyptian art, etc., and work my way up to the present over four years. My sophomore year I had a wonderful professor who taught a two semester course in Greek Art. I got very into all this stuff and was even persuaded for a moment that I wanted to be an archaeologist. I was quickly disabused of that notion after a Saturday morning in the basement of the museum where for the previous 70 years there had been an ongoing project to reassemble the world class collection of Cycladic pottery that Mrs. Leland Stanford had bought on a tour of Greece in the late 19th century


The collection had been shattered into millions of pieces when it all fell from display pedestals during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and was being painstakingly reassembled by undergraduate archaeology students (though I bet they have computers and robots doing it now.) I lasted one Saturday. 

This is a long way round to say that I was at one point fairly fluent in the culture and civilizations of the ancient world. And no matter how cool Rick Riordan makes it seem in his books, there is no way I would want to live in any of those time periods. The food, the clothing, the infrastructure, the hygiene (just think dentistry, to steal a line from my friend PJ), travel, politics—even worse than our own. So the ancient world is out. 

Ditto the Dark Ages which maybe weren’t quite as dark outside of Europe but see above about food etc.

So how about the Renaissance. That could be cool, right?

At least the food got better. And the art, now that would have been pretty awesome to see a fresh Last Supper or Sistine Chapel. But you still had plenty of other drawbacks—transport, politics, defenestration (now that would be an unpleasant way to go), medicine—without googling because I am writing this on an airplane, my guess is average male life span of about 35, so I would have been dead for 28 years. 

Okay, now we get to get good stuff, the Enlightenment. Who wouldn’t want to get enlightened? 

The American revolution. I mean, have you seen Hamilton? Very hip dudes. The French Revolution, whoops Reign of Terror.  The Industrial Revolution. I guess okay if you were into science and tech and machines but anyone who knows me would laugh at the idea of me hanging with Watt or Whitney or any of those guys. Maybe Adam Smith. 

The Romantics. Nah. I was never a Stephen Sprouse fan.

The Victorians. Forget that. I was once known in my wilding bachelor days as the doctor of fun. Maybe the Moderns—again, great art and literature and Paris and moveable feast and all that but you have WWI and the Depression and then WWII.

The 50s were too square.

That basically gets me born in 1955. 

I was born in Washington, D.C., where my wonderful late father Ervin was a young lawyer working with the Justice Department. He was married to my equally wonderful late mother Jane who he had met while attending Vanderbilt in my mother’s hometown of Nashville. By the time I was three years old the family was back in Nashville and soon expanded to include a wonderful brother Hugh and two wonderful sisters Janie and Mary. We were part of a large and very close extended family—my mother’s—with grandparents (two), aunts and uncles (six) and cousins (fourteen). 

One of the main reasons I would not want to live in another time is because I probably wouldn’t be allowed to bring my entire family with me and I cannot imagine ever finding a better one. And although there is a famous Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times,” I feel like I have been lucky to live in interesting times. I experienced the upheavals of the 1960s: the conflicts over Civil Rights and the Vietnam War and the cultural explosion shaped my late childhood and adolescence and made me who I am. I loved experiencing the Bay Area in the 1970s and then have had an incredible ride through New York City in the 80s, 90s and up till today. I think I came into publishing right around the high water mark for print media. And though things have changed in the 41 years I have been doing this job I still find it exhilarating to launch a great book from an author new or old into the world.

I feel so blessed to have so many wonderful colleagues here at Grove Atlantic but also all over America and the world—authors and fellow publishers and booksellers and reviewers. Maybe it is a lack of imagination on my part but I truly cannot imagine ever wanting to live in another era. I feel lucky to have lived in my own time.

But finally if I had lived in another time I wouldn’t have met my incredible wife Rachel Cobb and we wouldn’t have our incredible son Allen. 

All very sound reasons, Morgan (even though you could have just gone for a visit). You definitely hit the jackpot here in this present age, my sincerest congratulations. Just keep doing exactly what you are doing, here and now in this time, and many, many people will be very happy indeed that you did.

Coming up in June, an interview with Catapult's Hermione Hoby, author of the sensational Neon in Daylight.


Maria Fire said…
I have to say, this was a riveting interview that I enjoyed all the way through, laughed out loud and learned so much. Also, I sure hope I allowed into the tribe of "International Bohemian Southerners." Until now, I had felt myself tribeless, but this really fits. Thank you for such an uplifting blog, Jon.

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