Not so long ago, John Freeman, the former president of the National Book Critics Circle and until recently the editor of Granta, was very likely the most prolific writer about books on the planet. By his estimate, he would file as many as six articles per week—reviews or author profiles—and had a “220-spoke universe of newspapers” that he would syndicate his articles to, a pre-recession ubiquity that he admits would be impossible to maintain now.
“I was just working nonstop,” he said in an interview at his apartment in Manhattan. He gave off an air of fastidiousness, even in a T-shirt and jeans. “It was great, because I felt like a book factory. Books arrived at my door, I sat down and read them, I’d write about them, I’d get them out to people. It was just like this conveyer belt, which sounds really unromantic. But everything I did was somehow related to what I was reading or what I was writing about. I felt like this head attached to a machine.”