CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At age 39, Giancarlo DiTrapano, editor of Tyrant Magazine and Tyrant Books in New York, a literary magazine and small press, occupies that rare occupation on the publishing scene -- "bad boy of the publishing world," as the Los Angeles Review of Books recently christened the West Virginia native.
Some of his books and magazines are not for the faint of heart, much less a family newspaper, in their unblinkered, uncensored explorations of sex, bad behavior, craziness and more craziness.
At the same time there are the moments of literary epiphany as -- to quote the LARB again: "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."
The Gazette conducted an email interview about what motivates the work of this Charleston native, the son of Rudy and Martha DiTrapano.
Q:Legandary book editor Gordon Lish describes New York Tyrant as your book publishing "adventure." What was the initial inspiration for the magazine/press? What need was unfulfilled that you wanted to see filled?
DITRAPANO: I'd moved to NYC right after 9/11 and was interning at a big publishing house. I wanted to work in the field somehow but didn't feel like waiting for enough promotions to be able to publish what I wanted to publish, so I started the New York Tyrant literary magazine (the book arm, Tyrant Books, launched a few years after). A couple of other people were involved in the beginning, and we wanted it to be fun. And it was. For a little while. But then problems arose (as they always do).
Regarding fulfilling the unfulfilled: Yeah, I think there was a need at the time for something new. Something a little less "nice" and less square than the lit mags at the time.
Q:I imagine you do not have a mission statement. But if you did, what would be some of the words that might describe what you choose to publish and showcase? Certainly 'provocation,' since so much of the work is certainly provocative.
DITRAPANO: Experimental, truthful (not to be confused with honest), risky, hard earned, uncomfortable, and on occasion, if a writer really gets lucky, sublimity.
Q:A lot of dark and stumbling human behavior is on display in the books and magazine. What is the lure, the aim, of diving deep into the deeper end of the human behavior pool?
DITRAPANO: Because that's where you find what is true. People are messes, every one of us. Most of the time, I don't look around me and see a happy world. I see a lot of people, myself included, pretending that everything is OK. Which is fine, because that's what we're supposed to do. But there's a lot more going on inside of our psyches and in our lives. Also, I just tend to be attracted to sadness and madness and death when it comes to books. A happy ending is a nice escape, but are we sure there's ever been one? People write happy endings because they want them to exist.
Q:Describe growing up in Charleston, W.Va., what it meant to who you are and how it, if at all, influences your choices as an editor and creative person?
DITRAPANO: I grew up right on the Kanawha River, with the state Capitol looming right on the other side. I had great friends and we had a great time, though I have lost real (not Facebook) touch with most of them. People grow apart, I guess. When in town I call my friend Jon Ball, but that's about it ... And if I happen to go downtown to the bars or to the Glass, I hardly recognize anyone anymore.
I was precocious to the nature of sorrow from a very young age. My middle brother, Lidano, died when I was nine. I see family as an organic thing, and when one of the pieces is lost, the family itself becomes lost. At least for a while. Eventually, it comes back together, after time (the only true balm). More than anything, I felt so bad for my parents. I also lost my best friend, Vernon Sadorra, in a car accident when we were sixteen. Maybe seeing death and learning about loss at an early age has something to do with what I choose to publish. Or maybe I'm just sick in the head.