It s a good book.A worthwhile read.The internal politics were quietly nasty.Understated but lethal for the victim.Sales director after sales director came and went and i suspect the art of faint praise between the directors was v accomplished.Of course it goes on now.Human nature is unchanging but the veneer remains.Good manners masks treachery and quiet venom.The book trade, like the wine trade are similar in so many ways. Bought for a birthday present All the detail about authors published by Faber, fascinating insights into that world. Fascinating from start to finish The directors, the fall outs, the money The books and authors are almost secondary in this roller coaster tale. I had certain fears about what kind of book this would be It s a history of Faber and Faber as filtered through a selection of letters from the firm s archive The letters have been compiled and edited by the grandson of the firm s founder Uh oh, you may think a company wonk s in charge There s also the enduring notion that Faber was founded by and run on behalf of old farts with no interest in the world beyond Oxford and London a nursing home rather than a publishing house.I m glad to say this wasn t the case.I love the little details and facts that illuminate the bigger picture At first the firm was best known for its nursing guides and was originally called Faber and Gwyer the other Faber never actually existed, but the name had a loftier ring to it, and so Faber and Faber was born The firm turned down Ted Hughes first book because a condescending editor assumed he was an American When Hughes pointed out he was, in fact, English, an acceptance swiftly followed Lord of the Flies was originally called Strangers from Within the firm s reader, Polly Perkins, dismissed it as rubbish and dull Faber stalwart John Carey is offered his first contract for a book on Dickens Behind his back, an editor calls him perceptive but arrogant and impatient Toby Faber mostly stays in the background, making the odd sardonic comment the best of them all at Faber s expense You can almost see his eyes rolling at T.S Eliot for rejecting Animal Farm, thereby also costing the firm the then unwritten 1984 Faber also points out the firm has only employed two female directors in its history, and singles out the 80s for rampant chauvinism.One surprise is the sheer amount of humour Early promotional material portrayed the firm as Faberdum and Faberdee A mock advert for the poetry list was headed Sissy An acceptance letter sent to John Lloyd the co creator of Spitting Image calls his work in the worst possible taste , low brow filth yet finishes WE WOULD LOVE TO PUBLISH THE BOOK I admit that I didn t find the book s first 200 pages worthwhile Endless letter about who owns what number of shares and what a bally good time was had at All Souls are perhaps not of general interest to most readers But when editor Charles Monteith arrives in the mid 50s, the fireworks start I should add my respect for Monteith s abilities, already high, soared after I finished this book How many editors today read the kind of magazine that lasts only 7 issues and offer one of its contributors a contract, as with John McGahern Or trouble to write to a young schoolteacher off the back of three poems in the New Statesman, as with Seamus Heaney Faber s material is a little thin from the 80s onwards coincidentally the same time the firm pulled itself out of the stagnant funk it had spent the 70s in Largely this is due to the efforts of editor Robert McCrum No matter his notorious keenness to remind people of it in person, McCrum seems to deserve the credit Faber heaps upon him here I wish there d been between McCrum and this young writing student named Kazuo Ishiguro, and likewise with Garrison Keillor and Lorrie Moore Oddly there s nothing from the other Americans Faber was publishing around the time Jayne Anne Phillips, Stuart Dybek or Denis Johnson.Overall this isn t the equal of Diana Athill s Stet but interesting nevertheless. You d probably only read this if the following apply to you you love books and everything about them, from the buying to the binding you are nosy fascinated about writers and their lives, and the business of being a writerIf those things do apply to you, then buy this without hesitation Without a second thought Don t read the rest of this review, just buy it now.I ll keep it short just in case you did read on this is a fascinating history of a publishing house, told with very aptly selected cuttings from various correspondence to illustrate the tale It gives a great insight into how an independent publishing house works and makes you dreadfully grateful that when the company was on the knife edge seemingly something always came up.An excellent book Would have been lovely to have been brought bang up to the present date but I imagine that d be a bit too sensitive Re issue in 10 years with extra material, please. This is a superb book An insight into the development of the famous firm and the characters who made it what is is today. I can t wait to read this book I m a huge fan of the work Faber and Faber did in publishing my favorite authors That said, I ve had to return the book twice because of extensive water damage I hope the third time will be the charm And if it is, I have no doubt that I ll be giving the book a high rating. This is the story of one of the world s great publishers told in its own words Drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished letters, minutes, memoirs and diaries, Toby Faber takes us deep inside the evolution of the company and the excitement, hopes and fears of the people who published and wrote the books that line our shelves todayHighlights include Eliot s magnificent reader reports, Beckett on swearing and censorship, the publication of Finnegan s Wake, the rejection of Orwell s Animal Farm, PD James tasting her first avocado, the first reader s response to Heaney s Death of a Naturalist, Larkin s reluctance to attend poetry readings people s imaginary picture of you is always so much flattering than the reality , the discovery of Kazuo Ishiguro, and some sticky negotiations over book titlesIn the background, the publisher battles the Great Depression, wartime paper shortages and dramatic financial crises to retain its independence The result is both a vibrant history and a hymn to the role of literature in all our lives A delightful chapbook history of the illustrious British publishing firm The perfect garden book for thelazierf members of the chattering classes.
- Faber & Faber: The Untold Story: The Untold Story of a Great Publishing House
- Toby Faber
- 28 October 2018 Toby Faber