From the August 5, 1949 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Apparently George Braziller is not only a man of business acumen, but a man of artistic principle as well. Back in 1942, this Menemsha summer visitor gathered together ten friends and $25 to start the Book Find Club, thereafter dedicated to the astonishing proposition of distributing good books, and today it has a fanatically loyal membership of more than 65,000. Furthermore, the club’s basic intent has never wavered, and Mr. Braziller is even now contemplating new schemes for bringing top-notch authors and their works to the public’s attention.

Where such other groups as the Literary Guild and the Book of the Month Club make a heavy play for historical novels and the works of established writers, nothing suits Mr. Braziller better than to distribute books by utter unknowns. The talk of the trade, in fact, is Mr. Braziller’s knack for picking with such perspicacity that his unknowns don’t remain unknown for long — viz., Norman Mailler, whose The Naked and the Dead has been a national best-seller for months, catapulting its author to world prominence.

These are matters, naturally enough, which Mr. Braziller doesn’t object to discussing, even if it means his inability to participate in a family swimming expedition. A husky man with short black hair and a sun-tanned face, he was dressed in khaki pants and a plaid shirt as he settled down in the living room of the house he has rented for the summer from Kenneth Flanders, and began, with admirable foresight, at the beginning of it all.

“I don’t know whether you should print my starting off with ten friends and $25,” he said, “because I’ve said that before in interviews, and all sorts of people thought they could begin book clubs with $50, if this guy Braziller could do it on $25.”

But he finally decided that this was printable material, after which important decision he retreated to the kitchen to obtain coffee.

On the subject of the Book Find Club once again, he recalled that “the situation was pretty tough in 1942, what with paper restrictions and one thing and another,” but his selection of John Roy Carlson’s controversial and widely read Under Cover “really got us going.” Towards the end of 1942, Mr. Braziller went into the army, and his wife nominally took over the reins. But while he was a soldier, Mr. Braziller maintained close contact with the club, even to the extent of making the monthly selections.

To this day, choosing each month’s book remains his responsibility, although he has now gone so far as to hire readers to assist him. He finds such hard work well worth while, however, for he has an ideal pushing him along with surf-like persistence.

He states the ideal behind his club this way:

“I felt that good books — really good books — were being neglected. It’s not that I feel good books won’t eventually find an audience, but that it’s good to discover and encourage young writers, particularly if you can assure them distribution at a price range the public can afford. This was and still is our purpose. In the last year, for instance, six out of seven novels we selected were first novels by writers no one had ever heard of.”

That these books later were well received by the critics and zoomed on to the best-seller lists hardy detracts, according to Mr. Braziller, from the ideal of concentrating on first novels; rather, it proves that, if properly publicized and distributed, the market for new novelists is broad and rewarding.

Not content with running the club, Mr. Braziller has even made plans for starting a publishing house of his own, entirely independent of the club itself. He said, as a matter of fact, that this would be the first printed announcement of his plans, for he was entirely evasive on this subject when questioned about it recently by a reporter from the New York Times.

He said that he was starting the house “because I feel there’s an opening - there’s a period coming when people will again be turning to serious books.”

But he doesn’t think that there have been so many achievements in modern American literature as there should have been in recent years, and he puts the blame for it on the lack of encouragement and assistance given to native authors. “My feeling,” he said, “is that, just as foundations are set up to help scientists in their research, foundations should be set up and grants given to our writers. Writing has got to be recognized as a profession, just like anything else.

“I don’t want to sound as if I’m carrying a torch,” he said, “but our writers are too precious for us to let them just drift along. We have a heritage in this country, a heritage that must be developed. To a large extent, the responsibility rests with the government — not to keep our writers lying around the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard, but to keep them working. Our heritage must be developed, for a heritage of the past makes for a heritage of the future.”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox