Meet Edwin Frank: Editor of New York Review Books Classics

Books with a view.

As I wrote in my initial post, I am looking to cover literary events and the people behind them. In anticipation of next week’s Robert Walser event at 192 Books, I interviewed Edwin Frank, the editor of the popular (and conspicuously well designed) New York Review Books Classics (NYRB Classics) series about, among other things, the origins of the series, their selection process, and how they decide when to have events.

Manapat: How did NYRB Classics get started?

Frank: It started in the fall of 1999. It grew out of another enterprise called the ‘Reader’s Catalog,’ which was basically a big catalog bookstore –  the subtitle was ‘the 40,000 best books in print’ — in the course of the second edition of that in the mid-nineties we discovered that many of the books we wanted to include in it were not in print, and the idea arose to republish them.

How many people are involved in the decision of what to print?

For years it has been me and Sara Kramer, the managing editor.  I describe the process as ‘rigorously by whim,’ — the strategy is to make the series seriously eclectic covering a whole range of books including fiction and non-fiction.

How do you determine which books will have reading events? Are there upcoming events?

Inevitably the books with a translator who is active or books written by living writers. For instance, a few years ago Mavis Gallant came to New York — something she does not do very often — and we had a reading together with Symphony Space.

We’re doing an event next month of where Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg will be reading from [Gregor von] Rezzori, and later we are doing another Rezzori event based on his “Bukovina Trilogy.


Check it out

The newest book in the NYRB Classics series is Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories, a book that will certainly please observers of urban landscapes and embittered artists — though its appeal is certainly larger than that. Susan Bernofsky, the translator of Berlin Stories, will be reading selections from her translation at 192 Books on Thursday, February 2, at 7 p.m. (if you’d like to attend you must call 212.255.4022 to reserve a spot).

For the full text of my interview with Edwin Frank, which includes questions about NYRB Classic’s plans with respect to e-books, Edwin’s personal favorites, and more please visit my personal blog.


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