My Time at CUP: Darrin Pratt

Darrin Pratt



> My most vivid, and also odd, memory of my time at Columbia University Press is tied to my exceptionally brief modeling career, an opportunity provided to me by the Press. I joined CUP in 1992 as the exhibits and special sales manager, just a year out of college and after a year at Indiana University Press. At the time, CUP was located at Broadway and 113th Street, on the second floor of a dorm building. Somehow, I had the good fortune to score living quarters on 111th between Broadway and Amsterdam, so I may have had the shortest commute of anybody in the office at the time.

One morning as I was working at my desk the advertising manager came into my office and asked me if I would be willing to model for an advertisement in the New York Review of Books. I think my response was probably something along the lines of, “Uh. . . what?” She told me that she had lined up a professional model but he had bailed at the last minute. She asked me if I would be willing to fill in, oh, in the next hour or so.

For some reason I agreed to do the shoot, which was designed to create a photo to advertise French theorist Julia Kristeva’s new novel, The Samurai. The advertising manager and Julia’s editor at the press, Jennifer Crewe, had selected a quote from the book to accompany the photo: “You could put it another way. There were four kinds of men: men-women, men-children, men-adolescents, and American men.” Apparently, I was supposed to be the American man. I was sent home, fortunately not a long trek, to get dressed for the part. I was told to wear a turtleneck and a trench coat if I had one. I would have thought that jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap would have said “American man” far more clearly than what they asked me to wear, but who was I to say?

We went to a midtown rooftop to get the shot, with the Chrysler Building clearly visible in the background. If I didn’t look particularly American, at least you could tell that I was actually in America! The ad, which was the Press’s attempt to do an out-of-the ordinary book announcement, ran in the November 5, 1992, issue of NYRB, a few weeks before my twenty-fourth birthday. And that was the start—and finish—to my career as a model, a moment that I owe to Columbia University Press. On the other hand, my career in publishing is still alive and kicking twenty-six years later, and I owe that in no small part to some of my formative experiences—particularly in special sales—at Columbia University Press.

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