The New Yorker has done a profile of Michael A. Orthofer, here is one excerpt:
I first contacted him in 2004, asking him if I could write for the the Complete Review; I was an undergraduate at Stanford at the time, and thought that the site was an institution, like The New York Review of Books. I was politely rebuffed. Years later, I e-mailed to ask if I could send him a galley of my first novel. He already had it, he replied—he had picked up an advance review copy for sale at the Strand, for $1.49. He went on to review the book, giving it a B, and later e-mailed to soften the blow. “Bs always have something going for them,” he explained, while a C grade indicates “steer-clear territory.” All books on the site get a rating from A+ to F, part of the site’s endearing, Robert-Christgau-like fustiness.
Michael runs Literary Saloon, one of the very best and most important blogs, focusing on foreign literature in translation.
Oddly, he spent the first six years of his life not reading, and thus he is somewhat behind. Yet he is working at it:
“I can’t imagine not doing it,” Orthofer told me. “A day in which I don’t read or write, I have trouble falling asleep.” His goal is to read a book a day, though he confesses that this is “unrealistic.” He works on weekends, too, and has written four novels that are in the drawer. His main interests, according to the site, are inline roller-skating in Central Park and building snow sculptures, some of which are big enough that he carves staircases inside them to get to the top. When he tires of working, he steps out to a library or bookstore, “to see, be around books.” Last year, and this year, he worked through Christmas.
I will continue to read him until I can no longer. The profile is interesting and humorous throughout, and it is so far my favorite magazine piece of the year.
For the pointer I thank Michael Rosenwald.