Giancarlo DiTrapano IS that ‘straightest gay guy’ that NOT ONLY reminds me of (channels) the great past ‘cult-genius-often underground-liquor-soaked-literary-scene, BUT, also embodies and introduces the present day cult, writer geniuses.
Past infamous, heavy drinking writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Ramond Chandler, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allen Poe, Tennessee Williams and O. Henry, just to name a few, created some of the most lasting and renowned characters and scene-settings to ever be word-painted on paper!
Well, Giancarlo DiTrapano, in his New York studio flat and through his New York Tyrant and Tyrant Books, a literary magazine and small press, is introducing us to the current crop of bad-boy-genius-writers. These newer published authors reads like a who’s who of the 21st century’s best writers: Brian Evenson, Noy Holland, Michael Kimball, Gary Lutz, Rachel B. Glaser, Scott McClanahan, Sam Lipsyte, Padgett Powell, Breece D’J Pancake and Gordon Lish, to name a few. ‘Tyrant consistently publishes writers that large houses refuse to touch — and it’s growing.’
Want to learn more about the current, underground, cult, literary scene/atmosphere of New York? Michael Bible (interesting author last name for this bawdy-ish article) spells it out in Salon.com (the award-winning online news and entertainment Web site):
Publishing bad boy Giancarlo DiTrapano: Gordon Lish calls me “darling”
The New York Tyrant editor on coming out, running a small press and being an author in the age of Twitter
This article originally appeared on the L.A. Review of Books.
WHEN PEOPLE ROMANTICIZE literary New York, the conversation inevitability turns to famous writers and the places where they drank: Dylan Thomas at the White Horse, Faulkner and Hemingway at the now defunct Chumley’s in West Village, the elegant drunks at George Plimpton’s apartment. Nowadays many literary functions in New York consist of some hummus and maybe a glass or two of white wine and everyone’s home in time to catch The Daily Show. Multiple factors have contributed to this taming of New York letters. Many working writers are sequestered to academia, maybe due to the fact that New York has become prohibitively costly for artists to live as artists. New York Tyrant and Tyrant Books, a literary magazine and small press, is the exception to the rule. When I sat down with Giancarlo DiTrapano, the editor of Tyrant Books, in the little studio apartment which doubles as the Tyrant’s offices for this interview, he offered me Xanax, whiskey, and cocaine (not kidding) on a silver platter.
Founded by Giancarlo in 2006, New York Tyrant’s roll call of published authors reads like a who’s who of the 21st century’s best writers: Brian Evenson, Noy Holland, Michael Kimball, Gary Lutz, Rachel B. Glaser, Scott McClanahan, Sam Lipsyte, Padgett Powell, Breece D’J Pancake and Gordon Lish, to name a few. Tyrant consistently publishes writers that large houses refuse to touch — and it’s growing.
Giancarlo, Tyrant’s editor, publisher and publicity director, lives in Hell’s Kitchen, not far from the big publisher’s corporate offices. When you come up from the subway on 42nd Street you’re bombarded by grinning idiots enjoying Giuliani’s Disneyfied New York. But walk a few blocks to Giancarlo’s apartment and the neon fades a bit.
He lives in a ground floor studio with little back patio, an upright piano, a poster from the cult film “Over the Edge,” a farting, loveable bulldog named Rufus and, of course, books. Everywhere. Giancarlo himself could pass easily as a visiting Italian. Always well dressed, he’s a bit rough around the edges, cigarette constant in his mouth. He tells me he’s just talked to Gordon Lish, the infamous Knopf editor who edited Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, Joy Williams and Amy Hempel, to name a few. Lish’s last book with Knopf was published in 1990s but his influence has garnered a cult-like worship from young writers.
“Lish couldn’t talk,” Giancarlo says. “He was on the other line with Don DeLillo.” Giancarlo has often been looked upon as Lish’s heir apparent, the Lish of the internet age. “He calls me Darling.” Lish has a cell phone? I ask. “No. House phone. He says my name comes up as Diazepam [the pharmaceutical name for Valium] on his caller ID.” Gordon Lish has caller ID? I ask. And two-way calling? “Yes,” says Giancarlo, “but he has no tolerance for computers. He calls it The Machine. I think he would be great on Twitter, though. Just one sentence. That’s his whole thing. He’s really missing out.”
Giancarlo is no stranger to the internet. Small presses like Tyrant couldn’t exist without it. Where Lish failed to reach a large enough audience, Giancarlo has leveraged social media to attain a worldwide audience at little-to-no cost. In the early 2000s, big presses raced to catch up with the internet, drawn by promises of free word-of-mouth advertising, only to find the small presses were already there.
I ask about Tyrant’s latest book, Marie Calloway’s what purpose did i serve in your life. The book ran into controversy reminiscent of the days of Joyce and Nabokov: the printer refused it due to the frank nature of the book’s sexual subject matter and lascivious photos of its author. It’s the kind of great “bad” publicity that every publisher dreams of. The book is polarizing; Publishers Weekly put it this way: “[Calloway is either] a sex-kitten, a feminist using her own body as a laboratory; or she’s a vapid internet-age narcissist.” Love it or hate it, the book is a hit — an anomaly for small publishers.
An unlikely candidate to become the face of the New York literary vanguard, Giancarlo DiTrapano was born in West Virginia. “My grandfather came from Italy when he was 14 to work in the coal mines. He saved enough money to go back to Italy and find a wife. He discovered a 17th century castelletto that the Americans had bombed during the war and the Nazis occupied. The gambler who owned it lost all his money and sold it to my grandfather for cheap.” Giancarlo’s family owns the castle to this day. His grandfather came back to the states and settled in Charleston, West Virginia’s largest city.