The London Review of Books is no stranger to New York. For one thing, their pages are regularly filled with the work of philosophers and historians from Columbia and N.Y.U., including Thomas Nagel, Eric Foner, the late Edward Said and about a dozen others. For another, one of their senior editors, Adam Shatz, was a New Yorker until last fall, when he was hired away from his job as The Nation’s books editor and shipped across the sea. And, according to their most recent data, almost half of their readers—total circulation hovers just above 45,000—live in the United States. Not all of those are in New York, of course, but a lot of them probably are.
That being said, the LRB—in its 30th year of publication—will cross uncharted waters in April when its associate publisher, David Rose, relocates a chunk of its marketing operation to DUMBO, the once-industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn that has recently become an enclave for independent publishers, small bookshops, art galleries and performance spaces.
Mr. Rose hopes that a physical presence in New York will help boost the LRB’s stateside circulation and make it easier to sell ads to American publishers. The new office will be the Review’s first ever outpost in America. Once settled, staffers will find themselves in good company. Down the street from their new digs at the corner of Plymouth and Jay will be the offices of literary journal n+1, whose editors are in the process of relocating there from SoHo; two blocks over will be PowerHouse Books, who arrived almost two years ago.
Sharing the actual office with the LRB, meanwhile, will be Verso, the radical-left book publisher—also born in the U.K.—perhaps best known for publishing Christopher Hitchens’ attacks on Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa and Henry Kissinger; Mike Davis’ blistering history of Los Angeles, City of Quartz; and Norman Finkelstein’s highly controversial examination of post-WWII Jewish life, The Holocaust Industry.
And on the first floor, in the very same building, will be the offices of Melville House Publishing, a small but energetic house that moved there in January and has since opened a boutique bookshop that carries only books put out by small presses and doubles as an event space for lectures and parties. According to Mr. Rose, it was Melville House’s publisher, Dennis Loy Johnson, who convinced him to take the space, proselytizing about the neighborhood’s virtues over lunch and ultimately talking him out of his reservations.
Mr. Rose, who will head up the magazine’s American operation, became friendly with Mr. Johnson and Verso director Jacob Stevens over the course of several visits to New York. The neighborhood in DUMBO—which until recently was also the home of indie heavyweight Soft Skull Press—appealed to him, and not just because of the rent, which was quite low because the developers who own the building, Two Trees, are generous with discounts when it comes to institutions involved in the arts.
Instead, DUMBO’s real draw, Mr. Rose said, was what he perceived during his visits to be the neighborhood’s sense of community—something he felt was missing in the Village and in Chelsea, where he also did some location scouting.
“There was lots going on in those places, but once you got to DUMBO you got the sense that this is where it’s happening—this is where we need to be,” Mr. Rose said. “Everywhere else people are doing their own things, and it’s great, but there’s no sense of growth. There’s a sense of long-term existence, but there’s not the buzz you get in DUMBO.”
Mr. Rose said a lease on the space was signed last week, and staff will start moving over next month. At first, Mr. Rose said, the office will consist of no more than five people—himself and four staffers, from marketing, advertising, publicity and subscriptions—and while there are no immediate plans to house anyone from editorial there, he was open to the possibility and interested in hiring New York natives.
Mr. Rose said in an e-mail that he wants to host lectures and other events in the office, much like Melville House has been doing downstairs. “The New York intellectual community likes to get out and about in a way that London doesn’t—London often seems bovine by comparison,” Mr. Rose said. “Putting some of those people in the same room would be marvelous and the DUMBO office is a great place to try out the theory.”