I’ll never forget the first day I met Lauren Cerand—March 15, 2003—which also happens to be the day that I opened the gallery. A memorable occasion to be sure, and that Ms. Cerand is one of the few people I remember meeting that night is a testament to her magical presence. A few months later, she showed up solo at a party I was hosting and somehow managed to be immediately and utterly at ease even though she didn’t know a single soul attending. As a seasoned (and most coveted) book publicist, Lauren’s in her element at these kinds of events, but it never seems like work. All eyes are likely to be on her when she walks into a room, perhaps because she’s rocking a vintage fur and a full-length ballgown, but in conversation she’s got an uncanny knack for coaxing the very best out of whoever she’s talking to. No surprise that she’s an impeccable host as well. (Never say no when LC invites you to a dinner party!)
Lauren’s built a remarkable career as a publicist, working on a string of books and events of unusual excellence. Her latest endeavors are no exception, and include the fascinating (especially to me!) Small Victories: One Couple's Surprising Adventures Collecting American Prints and an upcoming event at the Mid-Manhattan Library with the acclaimed landscape architect Diana Balmori and our very own Jorge Colombo. LC is most often promoting the work of others, but she’s a formidable writer and thinker in her own right, as you’ll see for yourselves in the interview that follows. – Jen
5 Perfect Picks
1) Underwood, by Andrew Miller
This image to me represents the disquieting muse that every writer begs into being. And I love the way my fingers feel on those keys. The lack of an internet connection is a strong selling point, too, not to mention the sensual satisfaction of whirring arms, clanging parts, and the sensation that something is being made. Creative is more than a buzzword here. Or as Clarice Lispector said, in The Hour of the Star: “No, it is not easy to write. It is as hard as breaking rocks. Sparks and splinters fly like shattered steel.”
2) Studio, All Over Coffee #392, by Paul Madonna
One of the things that I like most about old paintings is the fact that they ask the viewer to do some work, decode the references, and understand the relationship between the elements and their sophisticated interplay of meaning. I speak to audiences at conferences and universities several times a year about publishing in the digital age, and this year, I've resolved to avoid the terms "authenticity," "storytelling," and "community" (unless it refers to a physical place). Why? Because, as this eloquent composition reminds us in an aside that, upon reflection, sums up the whole enterprise, I am not an industry. Neither are you.
3) Austria, Ski Lodge in the Alps, by Vintage Editions
Not too long ago, I was drinking champagne with one of my favorite iconic figures of the literary world when she told me that she had just returned from a remote mountaintop European hotel, once chic and long family-owned, that had resisted renovation, fallen out of fashion, become stylish again, and never changed. Not only do I want to cultivate that sense of exquisite equanimity in life, but I want to go there. A magazine recently asked me to write about wanderlust, and the words that I want to find have everything to do with the feeling of being in a new place and seeing the world with those eyes. Lush, inviting, and that wonderful word that cold-dwellers know well –– hygge (cozy intimacy) –– I see it all here.
4) Walter Benjamin: A Literary Organism Analysis, by Stefanie Posavec
This is my favorite edition. I'm reading an essay by Walter Benjamin right now, and he's an enigmatic and romantic thinker. And of course, we all struggle to parse meaning in this complicated world of ours. There's another layer of beauty in the interconnectedness of things, and the paths that lead us out of familiar territory and someplace entirely new. Benjamin was very intrigued by the idea of what exactly it is that we believe that we are acquiring, noting that "for a true collector the whole background of an item adds up to a magic encyclopedia whose quintessence is the fate of his object." The possibility of just one more…
5) Downtown Skyport, Pier 11, East River, Manhattan, by Berenice Abbott
When I look at this photograph, I can see the exact space that will one day be filled by the apartment building that I live in now. Soon I plan to move again, and I like that idea of the ghosts of our former selves, drifting in and out of sight, along with the occasional glimpse of what might come to be.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
The Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin.
2) Most coveted coffee table book?
Maria Agnelli: The Last Swan, which was recently published by Rizzoli. I consider her to be one of the incomparables, but Truman Capote didn't think so. Of Agnelli and Babe Paley, he once said, "If they were both in Tiffany's window, Marella would be more expensive." I ordered her auction catalog once, and the china she used on her yacht was previously owned by Catherine the Great. A general soft spot for glamorous Italians is not uncommon, though. Last time I saw James Salter speak, at the Center for Fiction, the director asked him whose novel he might have liked to have written, and he replied, "The Leopard was published posthumously. His wife didn't care about literature, she liked smoking and clothes. He was an aristocrat. They lived in Palermo. That's everything in the world right there." I can quote that from memory.
3) You've got $5M to spend on one piece of art. What would it be?
I'd love to liberate that Picasso tapestry from the Four Seasons.
4) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
As long as I've freelanced, I've allowed artists to pay me with art, so my place is very much in the salon style, in every sense, and always will be.
The 411 on Lauren Cerand
Lauren Cerand is an independent public relations representative who has worked with a variety of creative professionals, artists, and cultural organizations on primarily literary projects since 2004. She lives in New York, and will appear next at the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival.