Godspeed Paul Kozlowski

It was my good fortune to know Paul Kozlowski for the last four years of his life. If anybody could be said to embody the best of the book industry, it would be Paul. Having spent 35 years in bookselling and publishing, he knew the business inside-out, top to bottom. He’d been with Doubleday, Barnes & Noble, Random House, Knopf, and Pantheon, and was until recently associate publisher at Other Press. His view on the rapidly changing industry was both clear-eyed and optimistic. After a conversation with Paul–that might start with the future of electronic publishing and veer to the lesser works of Tolstoy and the the joys of Polish pickles–you’d always end up feeling better about being involved in this crazy business. That it mattered deeply and was being tended to by people who cared deeply. Paul accepted that there were no givens, no hard-and-fast rules in publishing any more than there were in life. I asked him once about a line on his Twitter bio, “living under blue skies on borrowed time.” He said it’s what we’re all doing whether we’re aware of it or not. But he was offhand about it; he wasn’t a solemn sort. Jolly is a word that comes to mind, and gentlemanly. He was ever ready with a smile and a laugh, ready to hear a good new story, willing to be surprised and pleased. He died last week of a heart attack at age 60. There was a packed house at his memorial service yesterday; his presence was palpable. He died too suddenly, too young.