I don’t think I’ll ever have anything to pitch to a commercial publisher,” Alex Rose says, sounding bemused rather than resigned, speaking from his apartment in Brooklyn.
For the past 10 years, the 32-year-old Wheeler School alum has been busy writing fiction and short films, several of which have been broadcast by HBO, Comedy Central, the BBC, and elsewhere. When income from those endeavors trails off, he gets money from tutoring or teaching screenwriting or whatever. About a year ago he and two friends started a small literary publishing house in New York, Hotel St. George Press.
Making films, Rose says, “is really a more gratifying process.”
“With this,” he adds about fiction, “you don’t really know if it’s going to completely suck.”
That comment about not being commercial enough came after discussing a hypertext novel he has online, Synapse: The Weblog of Catherine Bloom. It’s a promptly absorbing, fast-paced journal of a thoughtful young scientist that quickly turns into a suspense novel. The online aspect was a convenience rather than a preference, because he’s seen art projects work online but not hypertext.
“It’s not really satisfying to read off of your screen — nobody likes to do it,” he says. “I made my novel a hypertext novel because it fit the format — a woman writing a weblog. You’d read it the way you read any other blog, which are strangely, incredibly popular, those things.
“In a way that’s the real culture of letters,” he adds about blogs, “because there’s no dollar sign attached to it, no fancy names. It’s just interested people.”
Rose graduated from Hampshire College with a concentration in film and creative writing. He found writing classes head-spinning rather than helpful, because of all the competing advice. One-on-one has been best for him, with a trusted friend here, a smart girlfriend there. That’s been especially so with his father, Daniel Asa Rose, novelist, short story writer, and former Esquire travel columnist.
“I remember writing a short-story when I was in fifth grade,” he says. “I showed him all my stuff — he showed me all his stuff too, which was a bit weird. I wrote the story and it had this line, something like ‘A cold shiver ran up my spine,’ something like that. And he said, ‘No, you can’t use that, it’s a cliché.’ I was in the fifth grade! But it didn’t bother me at the time because it meant that he took me seriously as a writer.
“He never talked about my having talent or whatever, because it was assumed: ‘Don’t even go there, just try to do a better job,’ ” Rose says. “He’s given me like a postgraduate education since I was 10 years old.”
In carrying on the family business of writing fiction, Alex is swimming against a cultural tide, of course. But he is occasionally encouraged. “It’s really exciting to do a little book tour and find all these people who are excited and almost salivating for anything new, anything that’s a bit of a respite from the dumbing-down tendency of corporate fiction.”
That recent reading tour was for The Musical Illusionist, whose source he explains.