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Home: The Toast

Andrew Wylie, the literary agent with murder in his eyes, can say things that other men cannot, and we will love him for it.

He’s a tramp
But they love him
Breaks a new heart
Ev’ry day

What can be said about the Wylie Coyote? By rights we ought to hate him. By appearances alone we ought to surround him with a group of smiling, red-mouthed women and invite him to Particicution. Such needless dandery:

When I visited Wylie at his midtown office, I was struck by the total, airless calm. Its neatness is inhuman, all stacked books and white walls. As for Wylie himself, everything about him suggests an elegant efficiency, from his carefully crossed ankles to the sculptural placement of his hands. And he is not worried at all.

Such grandstanding, self-conscious elitism:

What I thought was: If I have to read James Michener, Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy, I’m toast. Fuck it. This is about making money. I know where the money is. It’s on Wall Street. I’m not going to sit around reading this drivel in order to get paid less than a clerk at Barclays. That’s just stupid. So if I want to be interested in what I read, is there a business? Answer: Yes, there is.

And the way to make it a business, I figured out, was: One, if you are going to represent the best, you must represent a preponderance of the best. You’ve got to be very aggressive about representing the right people.

He’s friends with Martin Amis, for heaven’s sake (Then again, I would pay a great deal of money to have seen him convince Martin to ditch Pat Kavanagh and run away with him, letting “I dare not” weigh upon “I dare”). The estates he manages read like a list of Who’s Hatable. And yet it is our medical opinion that Andrew Wylie will be spared in the coming misandrist revolution.

He’s a tramp
They adore him
And I only hope
He’ll stay that way

(An aside: have you ever been able to secure a copy of Yellow Flowers? If so, please tell me what you thought of it. I would hunt it down myself, but it would violate my commitment to lesbian separatism. My love for Andy [we’re on thee and thou terms, Andy and me] can carry me only so far.)

Look at this. Look at this book moppet talk about his Odyssey project and tell me your heart does not ache with affection for his fond little self:

LB: Is it making you money?

AW: I’m sure it is. I haven’t looked at it very hard.

LB: Do you consider yourself an activist?

AW: Oof. What a terrible thing. Probably. How embarrassing.

He’s a tramp
He’s a scoundrel
He’s a rounder
He’s a cad

His next move? “Instead of being intimate like a massage parlor, we should be able to expand infinitely, like a Borgesian library.”

Readers skilled in the art of illustration are welcome to submit their renderings of a Borgesian massage parlor or a massage library or Andrew Wylie bare-knuckle boxing Jeff Bezos (Queensbury rules only, please) or Andrew Wylie and Tim Gunn wearing matching silk bathrobes drinking expensive coffee and drily insulting passersby in front of a laundromat as they wait for their other silk bathrobes to air-dry in the comments.

He is silly, yes, but he is right about almost everything in the way that doctors and murderous Canaanite gods are right: inarguably and terribly.

LB: I once tried to interview [Amazon Publishing head] Larry Kirshbaum. Amazon did not seem eager to make that happen.

AW: [rolls eyes] Larry came to see me at the London Book Fair last year and asked when I was going to sell a book to Amazon. I said, “Never,” and he said, “Never say never,” and I said, “Larry, never. Goodbye.”

It’s not serious. They can’t get their books into any bookstores.

When Andrew Wylie rolls his eyes at you, your lungs will cease to function properly out of deference and shame. And — this is important — affectionate hyperbole aside, he has done wonderful things when it comes to dispelling the myth that writing and representing writers must be a mad and squalid path:

LB: You grew up with a father who worked in publishing. Was there a disdain for mass-market fiction in your house?

AW: Not really. I think what I wanted to know was: Is it possible to have a good business? The image I had was, if you represented writers who are good, they and you were doomed to a life of poverty and madness and alcoholism and suicide. Dying spider plants and grimy windows on the Lower East Side. On the other side of my family, there were bankers. So I wanted to put the two together.

There are the expected cracks about paying more attention to his books than his children, which I rather doubt he would speak about so freely if it were as true as he makes it sound. Bad parents rarely boast about their neglect; “I did my best” is a more common refrain.

He does not, however, come into contact with the young. (“When they see me, it’s like meeting Ronald Reagan…you can tell they’d be a lot comfier if I’d just get the fuck out. So I do.”) The young cannot approach Andrew Wylie, cannot see his breadth and depth and lineaments; he appears as a ship flickering in and out of view on a distant, heat-distorted horizon.

If you live to be very old, just before you die, you will see Andrew Wylie in perfect, surgical precision. He will smile at you, but you will not be comforted by his smile. There will be no heat to it; only light.

Here is Wylie, being right again:

I didn’t think that [in 2010] the publishing community had properly assessed—particularly in regard to its obligations to writers—what an equitable arrangement would look like.

And I felt that publishers had made a huge mistake, because they were pressured by Apple and Amazon to make concessions that they shouldn’t have made.

These distribution issues come and go. It wasn’t so long ago that Barnes and Noble was this monster publishing leatherette classics, threatening to put backlists out of print. Amazon will go, and Apple will go, and it’ll all go.

Andrew Wylie sits in perfect serenity as cities rise and fall around him. Andrew Wylie is as ancient as the hills that sit in silence underneath the moon, and he is young as the child born tomorrow. When he taps his heels, nations burst into song. When he shakes his head, virgins swan dive off of cliffs, smiling at death.

He’s a tramp
But I love him
Yes, even I
Have got it pretty bad

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