There is always the faint hope, in publishing circles, that a brief shot of a book jacket on TV, or in a film, might lead to a few sales. It’s usually not the case—especially since the literary-minded (and book-cameo-loving) writers of Lost have moved on to other projects—but it is, at least, amusing to see books on screens. Even more amusing? Seeing versions of book people on screen.
Those who know the small Brooklyn-based publisher Melville House got a chuckle when a potential take on its publisher, Dennis Johnson, made its way into the April 15 premiere of writer/actress Lena Dunham's talked-about new HBO series, Girls. In the episode Dunham’s character, Hannah, a recent college grad adrift in New York City with dreams of becoming a writer—she's working on a memoir-ish collection of essays—is surreptitiously dismissed from her publishing internship. And the books lining the shelves in the firing scene? They're all Melville House titles.
After the episode aired, fans of the small press took to Twitter where one joked that Hannah’s boss, played by Chris Eigeman, must be based on Johnson. So is Dunham a fan of Melville House? Does she have a friend who interned for, and was booted from, the press? As far as Johnson knows, no.
The show did ask to film in the Melville House offices, which are in Dumbo, but the money offered could not make up for a day of shutting down operations. Instead, the show’s producers rented thousands of Melville House titles for filming. Now, Johnson said, he’s seeing a nice, albeit small, bump in Web site traffic and orders through the site.
As for the portrayal? Johnson is amused.
"It was weird--very complimentary, but weird. We have no idea why they chose to have Lena Dunham's character work at Melville House, but the fact that they did really seemed to get people buzzed. I must admit, though, that we were a little nervous about it. We had no idea how the company would be portrayed, or whether they'd make the people working here look like a bunch of hipster assholes. Like, say, the publisher."
Johnson insists, though, that he is a much nicer boss than his on-screen alter-ego. "I would never have done that," he quipped. "In fact, half our staff is composed of former interns. Lena, if you're reading this, opportunity knocks!"