Michael Rozek Redefines Nonfiction
April 19, 2012
A couple of months ago, the writer Michael Rozek called me out of the blue. I hadn’t heard from him in more than a decade, and boom
, there he was, on the other end of my cellphone. After we chatted for a while, he mentioned in passing that he had written a couple of book-length manuscripts that went far beyond his work in the 1990s.
Rozek has been a mentor to me since I met him in 1995. Back then, he was working on an ambitious and exciting magazine project, and he recruited me to write for it. I submitted a draft of my first story, and he ripped it apart like no editor has ever done to my stories before or since. Then he spent more than an hour on the phone with me — on his dime, calling me in Tokyo — going line by line through my story, explaining what I needed to do to make the copy really sing. It was the most thorough and thoughtful critique of my writing I have ever received.
From 1976 to 1991, Rozek wrote about two thousand articles for every magazine from Architectural Digest
and Rolling Stone
. Then, after 15 successful years as a freelancer, he decided that enough was enough. He rebelled, leaving a lucrative career behind to start Rozek’s
, a subscription-only publication that wasn’t like anything else of its day. Rozek wrote longer stories that dealt with multiple issues and let his subjects talk in long quotes. And his subjects – a woman who had survived cancer and become a bass-fishing champion; an expert on Samuel Johnson; a radio DJ who talked to the all-night truckers – weren’t from the typical publicity machine; Rozek selected them because he felt they were worthwhile.
At one point, Rozek had 5,000 subscribers to his publication. I was one of them, and I remember being entertained and challenged with every issue. Wired
called it “anti-media media.” Folio
called him “publishing’s rising rebel.”
Rozek set out to make something even bigger – the magazine that I was hoping to write for – but he was unable to find the capital to sustain it.
So more than a decade later, Rozek was once again on the other end of the phone. What did he have to show me now?
Frankly, I was not prepared for what I read. Not even close. Rozek’s new work is mind-blowing.
I remember the first time I saw a Cassavetes movie. It was A Woman Under the Influence
. What I felt was visceral; I knew I’d never see movies the same way again. I ran out and rented Faces
, Opening Night
, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
. Each one gave me what Vladimir Nabokov calls “that little shiver” at the base of my spine.
I get that little shiver when I read Rozek’s new work.
Rozek had put the book-length manuscripts aside while he worked on a film project, but I persuaded him to let Chin Music Press publish them. I’m proud to announce that those two books are being prepared right now, and Rozek is working on a third.
We’re extremely excited to get the chance to bring Rozek’s work to a wider audience. You’ll hear more from us on this project soon.