Often what people first notice when they meet Jon-Jon Goulian are his pelvic bones, which are magnificent. Other times it’s the menacing tattoos that run up and down his arms and across his neck, which sort of make him look like a race car. His jaw is quite striking, too; he is always using it to flirt, interrupt himself and chew gum with impressive vigor.
Mr. Goulian, 40, is a graduate of N.Y.U. Law and an alumnus of The New York Review of Books, where he worked as an assistant to the editor, Robert Silvers, from 2001 until 2005. He is perhaps the only former hip-hop recording artist who is also a member of New York’s delicate and droopy intelligentsia-in-training, and taken together, he amounts to a most bewildering weirdo. A lot of nights he wears high heels and nail polish, and though he used to rock a skirt almost every day, he now pretty much always dresses in a small tank top and improbably tight pants. Friends say they seldom see him out of this uniform, and consequently, he has become one of the most recognizable and iconic unknowns on the city’s literary circuit.
Though he has never had anything published, Mr. Goulian has, naturally, long been at work on a book about his life, tentatively titled The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt: A Memoir of Androgyny. Last Thursday afternoon, just a few days after Mr. Goulian’s agent at the Wylie Agency went out with a proposal for the book, Kate Medina, the executive editorial director of Random House, offered to pay him a staggering $750,000 for the privilege of publishing it. Mr. Goulian accepted this offer.
Sadly, Mr. Goulian declined to comment on his book or his contract with Random House, explaining that he wants to finish writing the manuscript before he starts talking about it.
His old boss Mr. Silvers, though, was more than happy to say a few words, calling his former assistant “one of the most brilliant people who ever worked” at The New York Review, and expressing great interest in reading his book.
“Jon-Jon grew up knowing a very wide range of political people and intellectuals,” he said, noting that Mr. Goulian’s grandfather was the pragmatist philosopher Sidney Hook. “And then in some part of his life that I know nothing about, he obviously had his own adventures. I would look forward to reading about them.”