Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, author, reality TV star, quote machine and arbiter of cool, will acquire books for Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, the publisher announced this week. Apparently Bourdain didn’t get the message that books are no longer cool or good business.
However, it seems that Bourdain has been given carte blanche to acquire and release three to five books per year that “reflect his remarkably eclectic tastes” for the imprint.
Bourdain won’t be acquiring food-related books, however. “We’re presently looking at an initial list composed of chefs, enthusiasts, fighters, musicians and dead essayists. And we’re looking to publish them in a way that’s both accessible and respectful of the power of the written word – and appropriately fetishistic about the tactile joys of the printed page,” Bourdain said in the press release.
Given what we know of Bourdain (he has enthusiastically fawned over both Jim Harrison and Daniel Woodrell on No Reservations) and parsing that quote above, it feels like Bourdain is going to fill the publishing niche of manly literature, which hasn’t exactly been kind to this generation of writers that fancy themselves a Norman Mailer or Ernest Hemingway type. There isn’t much room for the guys that want to drink heavily, get into fights, go to war, womanize and then read a book. Really, only Chuck Palahniuk can consider himself a success in this era of the genre.
Perhaps Bourdain has the cultural cache to change this equation.
“I will say that I’m a guy who loves books–on a variety of subjects–and that I relish the opportunity to help other authors be heard. And that this is NOT some cynical bullshit list we’re talking about. This will be a very interesting group of authors whose works deserve attention,” Bourdain told Eater.
Cynicism aside, because that’s a natural default when a celebrity takes up what could be a vanity project, if Bourdain really thinks he can make the book business cool again, then all the power to him.