Elffers first American best seller came out in 1973, ‘Tangram’. In it, he and Michael Schuyt present 1600 silhouttes of the ancient Chinese puzzle. It sold 1 million copies worldwide. Next, he did ‘Play with your food’ in which he and Saxton Freymann showed how fruit and vegetables can be transformed into animals in 150 weirdly hilarious pictures. It received national coverage in shows of David Letterman and Martha Stewart.
With Robert Greene he teamed up in 1998 to produce ‘the 48 Laws of Power’, again a major best-seller, followed by ‘The Secret Language of Birthdays’ which also reached 1 million copies.
38 years ago publisher Joost Elffers moved to New York, but he’s back regularly to his ‘sweet Amsterdam’. To see family and old friends, to make up with friends he’s fallen out with for no clear reason. And to discuss new ideas for books at the Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy restaurant, for, he says, ‘the people I need to speak with use this place to have breakfast or work meetings. Tomorrow morning I will see Abraham de Swaan (Professor emeritus Sociology), and I just met a writer whom I coach. This place really works as the cultural centre it was meant to be’.
‘I come from a cultural family, which makes it easy for me to feel at home here. Does this ugly little lamp on the table irritate me? No, because it is part of the experiment of Lloyd Hotel. Until five years ago, the design mecca of New York was Moss in SoHo. This was a gallery-like shop where you could browse hypermodern furniture and retro home goods. Whenever they had Dutch design on the table, I always found it over the top nonsense. 38 years ago I left a country where functional design ruled; building dykes and sound chairs, modern design to support people’s progress in life. But what I saw at Moss New York were strange, expensive products, so ridiculous.