PUCK, AN ONLINE publication aspiring to connect name-brand journalists to wealthy and powerful readers, launched last year funded in part by TPG, “a private-equity firm with a hundred and thirty-five billion dollars in assets,” according to a recent account by Clare Malone in the New Yorker. Despite those deep pockets, and an initial raise of $7 million, however, the photo accompanying Malone’s piece indicates that the bookshelves at Puck HQ are curiously bare.
Editorial offices, even relatively new ones, tend to look like something out of Hoarders, bursting at the seams with review copies and research materials. To eyes habituated to that typical clutter, the Puck photo presents a disconcerting image; one that suggests something more like a furniture ad than a newsroom.
Further deepening the irreality was the question of where these shelves are located. Though it’s common and, given the cost of renting office space in New York, even prudent for a media startup to avoid the expense of a lease, if possible, they are (presumably) real shelves. Where are they?
Despite its positioning as a cutting-edge Information Age publishing enterprise, Puck is forbiddingly hard to Google, its results swamped by those for the fabled 19th century humor magazine of that name, and for the immense and fancifully decorated Lafayette Street office where the magazine was edited and published—and which, a century later, was home to Spy magazine, co-founded by Graydon Carter, who eventually became editor of Vanity Fair. This is the history that led Jon Kelly, a former protege of Carter, to name his new venture Puck. (Now Jared Kushner’s family company owns the Puck Building and it has expensive condos in it.)
This new Puck is not in the Puck Building, apparently. Its website lists no physical address or phone number, just a single email address: email@example.com, for what Malone calls an “automated e-mail persona.” The U.S. Trademark Office lists the Puck News trademark as belonging to its parent company, Heat Media, which filed for the mark in July of 2021 using an address in Brooklyn. Google yielded two addresses previously used, on Puck’s newsletters, as contact addresses: 217 and 227 West 17th Street. Neither of these turns up as an address for Heat Media or Puck News anywhere online that we could find, except in the archived publications of Puck itself. 217 West 17th Street doesn’t appear to exist at all (a typo?), and 227 is a furniture showroom with apartments above it.
Mark Peterson, the photographer credited with having taken the New Yorker photo, told us when asked over email that the picture was not taken at that Brooklyn address, and suggested that Puck’s publicity people might be able to say where it was. Puck does not have any listed publicity contacts on its website. At press time, Clare Malone hadn’t written back to confirm the address, either.
Fritz has yet to respond.
But: the shelves! With a few exceptions, the selection of books we could make out here has Airport Bookshop written all over it. How did they land on these shelves?
Popula counts 29 books on the slate-gray bookcases in this photo (not counting the 11 uniform volumes of whatever periodical is arranged on the second shelf down, the title of which we were unable to determine). [UPDATE: See below.]
There’s also a plant cutting in water in a “chocolate Negroni” bottle, apparently repurposed from a $140 four-pack of premixed cocktails. Of the 29 visible books, we were able to identify 14, at least three of which were written by Puck staffers: How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston, and House of Cards and Money and Power by William D. Cohan. Here are the ones we could make out, with excerpts from their relevant blurbs and promotional copy:
1. House of Cards: How Wall Street’s Gamblers Broke Capitalism by William D. Cohan
[In] March 2008 the 85-year-old firm Bear Stearns was brought to its knees – and global economic meltdown began. With unprecedented access to the people at the eye of the financial storm, William Cohan tells the outrageous story of how Wall Street’s entire house of cards came crashing down.
“A page-turner … hard to put down, especially thanks to its dishy, often profane, quotes from insiders … Read it, learn – and weep” —Observer
2. Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World by William D. Cohan
Goldman Sachs are [sic] the investment bank all other banks—and most businesses—want to emulate; the firm with the best talent, the best clients, the best strategy. But is their success just down to the gilded magic of the “Goldman way?”
William D. Cohan has gained unprecedented access [Ed. note: more unprecedented than the unprecedented access of the previous book?] to Goldman’s inner circle – both on and off the record. In an astonishing story of clashing egos, backstabbing, sex scandals, private investigators, court cases and government cabals, he reveals what really lies beneath their gold-plated image.
3. How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston
The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston shares his 30-plus years of expertise in being black, with helpful essays like “How to Be the Black Friend,” “How to Speak for All Black People,” “How To Celebrate Black History Month,” and more, in this satirical guide to race issues. Audacious, cunning, and razor-sharp, How to Be Black exposes the mass-media’s insidiously racist, monochromatic portrayal of black culture’s richness and variety.
4. How the Trading Floor REALLY Works by Terri Duhon
Trading floors have always fascinated people, but few understand the role they play in the world of finance today. Though markets rise and fall every day, the drivers of those are rarely explored. Those who understand the dynamics of trading floors will better understand the dynamics of global financial markets. This book reveals the key players on the floor, their roles and responsibilities, how they serve their clients, and how it all impacts the markets. It also explains important terminology, explains the world of trading both cash and derivatives, and much more.
5. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Springtime in Styria. And that means war.
There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king…
War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ… Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.
6. Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences by David Croteau et al.
[An undergraduate Comms textbook]
In a society saturated by mass media, from newspapers and magazines, television and radio, to digital video projects and the Internet, iPods and TiVo [Ed. note: !!], most students possess a great deal of media knowledge and experience before they ever enter the classroom. What they often lack, however, is a broader framework for understanding the relationship between media and society.
Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences provides that context and helps students develop skills for critically evaluating both conventional wisdom and one’s own assumptions about the social role of the media.
7. The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers
Maddie Sykes is a burgeoning seamstress who’s just arrived in Bright Leaf, North Carolina—the tobacco capital of the South—where her aunt has a thriving sewing business. After years of war rations and shortages, Bright Leaf is a prosperous wonderland in full technicolor bloom, and Maddie is dazzled by the bustle of the crisply uniformed female factory workers, the palatial homes, and, most of all, her aunt’s glossiest clientele: the wives of the powerful tobacco executives.
When a series of unexpected events thrusts Maddie into the role of lead dressmaker for the town’s most influential women, she scrambles to produce their ornate gowns for the biggest party of the season. But she soon learns that Bright Leaf isn’t quite the carefree paradise that it seems…
“With an atmosphere so thick you could blow it out in smoke rings, Adele Myers vividly conjures post war North Carolina, where ladies wear matching hats and gloves and no one questions the supremacy of the all-powerful tobacco leaf—except one young woman, trying to find her place in the world, torn between conflicting loyalties. A thoroughly immersive and engaging read!”
—Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of Band of Sisters
8. Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power by Zachary Karabell
In Inside Money, acclaimed historian, commentator, and former financial executive Zachary Karabell offers the first full and frank look inside this institution against the backdrop of American history. Blessed with complete access to the company’s archives, as well as a thrilling understanding of the larger forces at play, Karabell has created an X-ray of American power–financial, political, cultural–as it has evolved from the early 1800s to the present. Today, unlike many of its competitors, Brown Brothers Harriman remains a private partnership and a beacon of sustainable capitalism, having forgone the heady speculative upsides of the past thirty years but also having avoided any role in the devastating downsides. The firm is no longer in the command capsule of the American economy, but, arguably, that is to its credit. If its partners cleaved to any one adage over the generations, it is that a relentless pursuit of more can destroy more than it creates.
9. Les Fêtes de mon Moulin by Roger Vergé
A cookbook by the proprietor of the celebrated French restaurant, le Moulin de Mougins. Vergé, famed for his innovative ways with fruit, is said to be one of the originators of nouvelle cuisine.
10. The Last Good Guy by T. Jefferson Parker
In this electrifying new thriller from three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestseller T. Jefferson Parker, Private Investigator Roland Ford hunts for a missing teenager and uncovers a dark conspiracy in his most personal case yet.
When hired by a beautiful and enigmatic woman to find her missing younger sister, private investigator Roland Ford immediately senses that the case is not what it seems. He is soon swept up in a web of lies and secrets as he searches for the teenager, and even his new client cannot be trusted. His investigation leads him to a secretive charter school, skinhead thugs, a cadre of American Nazis hidden in a desert compound, an arch-conservative celebrity evangelist–and, finally, to the girl herself. The Last Good Guy is Ford’s most challenging case to date, one that will leave him questioning everything he thought he knew about decency, honesty, and the battle between good and evil…if it doesn’t kill him first.
11. A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
“A love letter to storytelling” —New York Times
“A nuanced look at the power of shame to shatter lives and send shards of pain hurtling down the generations . . . brilliant” —Big Issue
Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn…
Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college.
12. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
Gangs, immigrants, and the rich keeping the poor down, with a twist.
In an alternate New York, magic is wielded by the Mageus, whose innate affinities vary widely, and the Order, who disdain but use magic in rituals that limit the Mageus’ freedom. For centuries, Mageus have entered but cannot leave Manhattan thanks to the Brink, a magical barrier surrounding the island. Esta’s affinity involves manipulating time, and the professor who raised her has sent her from the present day to 1901 to stop the destruction of a book that could potentially destroy the Brink…
The past is slightly romanticized but largely realistic: the Mageus function as a stand-in for any immigrant group subject to prejudice, and Esta’s contemporary attitudes shine a light on outdated attitudes, while through the experiences of Chinese Jianyu (the only nonwhite member of Dolph’s gang), some of the racial prejudices of the past are confronted.
13. This Business of Music by Sidney Shemel et al.
Since 1964, when it was first published, people working in every field of music have been turning to This Business of Music for answers to questions on legal, financial, or economic aspects of the industry. With an exhaustive appendix of standard industry forms and legal extracts, this bestseller continues in its role as the bible of the business side of music.
14. House Hunting by Todd Hido
Todd Hido’s large color photographs of suburbia are lonely, forlorn, mysterious … and strangely comforting. Hido photographs the interior rooms of repossessed tract homes, and the outsides of similar houses at night whose habitation is suggested by the glow of a television set or unseen overhead bulb. Seldom does the similar evoke such melancholy. Yet rather than passing judgment on his anonymous subjects, Hido manages to turn the banal into something beautiful, imbuing his prints of interiors with soft pastels, and allowing the exteriors to glow in the cool evening air.
Do you see any other titles you recognize? Have you been to Puck’s offices? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
UPDATE: Reader C.T. of New York writes in with the following.
Heya. I’m not gonna be the first one to note this, but… it looks like the Puck offices photographed in the New Yorker article are / were the ones located at 227 W. 17th.
Our current Google street view of 227 indicates the buildings across the street on 17th are identical to the ones seen through windows. Based on the blocks on the left-hand facade, I’m guessing Puck is on the 3rd floor.
UPDATE: Grateful thanks to sharp-eyed Brick House lead technologist Jacob Ford (@email@example.com) for identification of the volumes on the second shelf. They are all copies of the Pelican Shakespeare edition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (the play featuring that naughty fairy, Puck, who “misleads night-wanderers, laughing at their harm,” and also “frights the maidens of the villagery.”)
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