Giancarlo DiTrapano, the fearless founder, editor, and editor of Tyrant Books, died last week at the age of forty-seven. Thoroughly independent and loyal to his writers, he was an irreplaceable presence in the literary world, a one-man powerhouse of the avant-garde. With New York Tyrant In his magazine, he campaigned for emerging talent like Rachel B. Glaser and Brandon Hobson, and his record with Tyrant was astounding: in just over a decade, he published Scott McClanahan’s The Sarah book, Marie Calloways What purpose have I served in your life?, an omnibus from Garielle Lutz’s short stories, Atticus Lishs Preparation for the next life (an excerpt that appeared in the Fall 2014 edition and won the Plimpton Prize 2015) and many other strange, heartfelt, highly original books. His work was far from over. In the months before his death, he had cemented plans to introduce a new press. Below, four of his writers and friends (at DiTrapano there was little difference) recall his generosity, dark sense of humor, and dedication to literature.
I was at a reading and was looking at a novel for sale on a folding table. A man came up to me and said what’s going on. I said I wanted to buy the novel but spent all my money on beer. “Take it,” he said. Looked like someone I would work on construction with. “Take it.” He put the book in my hand. This was the editor of the book, Giancarlo DiTrapano. An open person, a kind person. He would just give something to a stranger, no reason. I only knew him for five years. Gone way too early. I can’t think of anyone cooler. Was more alive than anyone I knew
I’ve always admired people who dream of doing something and then, seemingly before they even wake up from the dream, they are in the middle of it. At a kitchen table in a cramped apartment to start something nice. He did that. There is a lot of talk about being “punk rock”, about being an individual – how is it even possible to go your own way by your own standards? I dont know. All you have to do is check out my shelf of Tyrant Books publications. There they are, twenty of them in a row. Open one. You can see the answer there. Authors he loved very much. Telling stories to tell. Any writer could explain how passionate Giancarlo was. How it was almost impossible to change your mind when you believed in someone, something. You might get into an intense battle for what the book needed, but in the end what was born into the world was right, was loved. Was real. Didn’t come from a boardroom. The contrary. He was looking for the outsider. He helped the outsider get brighter light.
How do you explain? Here’s something: Most people consider Twitter a wasteland. But Giancarlo loved it because it was raw language. People who are themselves, say too much, freely and easily, with too much blood and courage. And so he discovered many artists. One of the nicest stories I heard was that he talked about getting the manuscript for the excellent novel Welfareby Steve Anwyll. An unsolicited DM who asked if Giancarlo wanted to read the manuscript came to his Twitter. Sure, send it. Gian opened the file in bed around midnight and read and continued reading and couldn’t take his eyes off. The sun was rising. He finished the book and emailed Steve saying he wanted to publish it. That was all. Not a middle man. Not an overly careful, calculated consideration. Let us do this. Let’s go. That has to come into the world.
I wish everyone reading this memory could become like that. What would you like to see come into the world? How can you bring it into the world today, even a little? There’s a lot more to say about Gian – he was funny, playful, a hero of mine, a friend, always a prince to me, even if he should have screamed. Once I was waiting for him on a street corner, expecting him to come one way if he got around the other and pantomimed me with a hundred bullets. “You did, sucker.” Yes you have. Rest in peace, Gian. Much respect for you, much love.
Bud Smith is a writer from Jersey City, New Jersey. His short story “Violets” appeared in the summer 2020 edition.
On December 25, 2020, Gian tweeted a quote from Pope Francis: “The Son of God was born an outcast to tell us that every outcast is a child of God.” Unlike so many others, Gian actually treated outcasts like children of God. He loved her. His heart was bigger than anyone could contain; it flowed out of him, into everyone he knew, and into the books he published. His ability to see something immaterial in me and so many others, something that could be nurtured and turned into literature, was really rare. Through our years of constantly attacking each other, Gian has loved, encouraged, and kept me, giving me the confidence and space to grow. He essentially tossed me the keys New York Tyrant Magazine, and he did the same thing when I was about to start editing books. The only time I asked him for help editing something he said, “You already know what to do.”
I joked that Gian still managed to saddle me with a lot of underpaid work after his death. I wish he was there so I could tell him how much I want to kill him. Gian was one of the few people you could never go too far with; I trusted him in this emotional, intimate way. Almost immediately after his death, I kept thinking of dark jokes about it that I wished I could tell him. Maybe I’ll miss that most of all. Gian was my friend.
Jordan Castro is the author of The novelist (June 2022 by Soft Skull) and the editor of Pets: An Anthology (Tyrant, 2020) and New York Tyrant Magazine.
We ate french onion soup at the Odeon last week. We laughed at how years ago I’d tweeted a picture of a book with my tweets that my friend had printed and pretended Tyrant had published it. It was a joke, but he DMed and asked who had really published it. This guy I had idolized for years was in my DMs. Twitter was magical and so was he. He asked if I had a book. So of course I said “yes”, I’ll send it over right away. I rushed to the library at 2am AT THE. and started writing this book just for him. Years later … it was done, he read it and we went to the Odeon and ate French onion soup and laughed. I keep listening to those WhatsApp voice notes he sent me while stumbling on acid. God he had the best voice and he said the best stuff. We talked about everything and nothing, it was so exciting, really magical – that’s the only word that comes to mind when I talk about him – like that first DM, so fast and so exciting. Everything he said made me start a book. So I did it because he asked.
Honor Levy graduated from Bennington College in 2020. Her first novel was about to be published in DiTrapano’s new press.
Gian was my editor, publisher, friend, uncle, father, goddamn spiritual guide. He lived to nurture the eternal flame – to throw gasoline on it. I loved him for it.
Sean Thor Conroe is an M.F.A. Candidate at Columbia University. His first novel, FUCCBOI, was published by DiTrapano’s new press.