Because Michael has been such an important element in the success of all the books I’ve edited since I came to Algonquin eight years ago, the individual moments of his genius at work blur into one big picture of someone who is both a deeply compassionate friend (to authors and editors alike) and a super salesman cum magician, capable of making the impossible into reality. On first meeting him, however, I came away with an impression that, while favorable, was definitely not on the mark. Quiet, I thought. Understated. Wrong. All it took was to see him for the first time in full operating mode on the floor of BEA, engaging with everyone in sight, charming the crustiest critic, wooing the media with his intelligence and obvious love of books and good writing. Working with Michael—and even more importantly, having him as a friend—has been a great privilege, and I will miss him more than he can know.
– Chuck Adams
I remember sitting down with Michael for my interview at Algonquin nearly two years ago and being blown away with how friendly and charming he was, not to mention how impressed I was over his being such a voracious reader. I didn’t feel like I was being interviewed by a potential boss, I immediately felt like I had made a new friend. Michael has that way about him. He makes everyone around them feel at ease, with his humor and intellect and ability to reach in and draw a person out. Whether we are getting margaritas at Dos Perros, chatting about new books to read on walks to Cup O’ Joe or pranking each other’s offices with Clown, every moment with Michael has been an adventure, a treat and a true joy. I can’t bear to think of his leaving, it breaks my heart so much.
– Megan Fishmann
WHAAA. I’m desolate because I’ll miss Michael’s creative input. It’s been fantastic to have him as a colleague these past 10 years. He’s so curious about everything, and up to the moment. When it comes to the arts and media, he’s read it first, seen it first and knows who’s doing what first. I am glad we are friends and hope he’ll keep me in his email loop. I look forward to continuing to be on the edge of his cutting edge.
– Anne Winslow
Having worked with him for ten years now, I am always struck by how Michael has different modes, each very distinct: creative Michael, curious Michael, doggedly focused Michael. I love all those Michaels, and it goes without saying that he was a fly Publicity Director, and even more fly Online Marketing Director. But the Michael I love most of all is the one who, monthly, took a walk up the street to the Eckerds (and now Rite Aid) and trolled the sale aisle to find the most puzzling, and often slightly horrific, objet d’art. Strange things would show up in the most unlikely places in the office: the Elf, with bendy legs in a tiny velveteen suit, who haunted us through sales conference run-throughs, sat atop bookshelves, hid in desk drawers. Last time I saw him, he sat defeated amongst my shoes in my closet, after the Christmas party. There are the clumsily painted cat statues that look like they’re melting (one right into a shoe), some gharish purply shiny swan vases (a set!), and many years ago, a gigantic doll of your nightmares, big enough to fill an office chair. And a frighteningly huge stuffed chicken, impossible to describe. I’ll miss Michael for how much he truly cared about books—but even more so, I’ll miss the fine art he brought into my life. (And I’m thinking he might need a lucky elf in Minneapolis.)
We live for sweets, and I’ll miss Michael’s appetite for food and humor. If you’re a glutton, it’s good cover to have someone beat you to the cookie jar occasionally, and Michael would meet me there with a smile. Have a cookie on me, Michael. But just one.
– Brunson Hoole
Michael and I have worked together for some fifty years now. Prior to that, we attended different high schools together, and for a brief stint we shared the stage at open mike nights throughout the Carolinas where we performed under the name “Sarah Smile.”
Yes, we were a Hall & Oates cover band, and I have to say that when Michael would belt out “Maneater” the audience would remain silent and spellbound long after the song ended. It was apparent then that Michael, like Daryl Hall, was really the talent and I was just the guy with the thick mustache who was obviously a rabbinical school dropout. A Friday at the Algonquin office was always crazy with Michael around. Both of us would arrive at the office wearing pleated Dockers and matching Nautica Polos. I would sit at his desk and he’d sit at mine, and all day long we completely fooled our co-workers. He’d be at my desk and when someone walked in he’d be like, “I’m Craig Popelars and I wear a lot of gel in my hair, and I bicycle in Spandex, and Frankie says Relax!” It was hilarious!
Sometimes on the weekend, Michael would come over to my house and we’d sleep out in a tent in the backyard and we would just like, you know, talk all night long. He always brought over his Magic 8 Ball and we’d laugh ourselves stupid asking it questions like “Will I marry an astronaut?” or “Will Mary Louise Parker be naked in any forthcoming episodes of Weeds?” or “Have the works of Joyce Carol Oates contributed to the recent emergence of feminist film theory?” That last one had me laughing so hard that I somehow managed to hook my orthodontic headgear that I have to wear at night to the tent door’s zipper. Michael then said he heard a wolf outside which scared me so much that I jumped up and made a beeline for the house dragging the tent, Michael, and two sleeping bags by my front teeth. We were C-R-A-Z-Y!
Most people may think that it was Michael’s attractive looks that made him so successful at Algonquin, but they’re wrong. In all honesty, Michael’s passion for books, his unyielding creativity, his willingness to stick his neck out there and make things happen, his ability to create strong and meaningful relationships with the media, booksellers, co-workers, and authors, and his dedication and devotion are what make Michael truly shine. Michael helped raise Algonquin to dizzying new heights. He wore his Algonquin tattoo with great pride, and I will miss him terribly. Graywolf Press and the great state of Minnesota are incredibly fortunate to steal this rare talent away from Algonquin. Embrace him and keep him warm during your incredibly long, cold, and stagnantly depressing winters. Godspeed Michael Taeckens. I love you like a brother.