"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Should Publishers Take Risks?

One of the famous stories about the novelist, Malcolm Lowry, whose centenary it is this year is about  the loss of the manuscript of his first novel, Ultramarine, when it was stolen from the open Bentley of Chatto editor, Ian Parsons, while he nipped into the office for a minute on his way to Scotland.  The story ended happily when a carbon Lowry had thrown away, but which a friend had fished out of the bin, enabled him to rewrite (which he generally did endlessly anyway).  But reading Parsons' account in Gordon Bowker's fascinating collection of Lowry reminiscences, Malcolm Lowry Remembered (1985) I was struck by Chatto's endorsement of their reader's report which said that it showed more potential than achievement and for that reason they should do him. "I don't think we shall make a penny, and I think he'll get very mixed reviews...He will never, I think, do four-square circulating-library books, but his talent is one to be encouraged."   Would such a memo circulate in Chatto/Random House today?

6 comments:

Andrew K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew K said...

You could argue that since the ethos of the age is applied materialism in the form of consumerism, the great foe of applied materialism in the form of state communism- and the logical destination of this is absolute idiocy, as mass culture is in the experimental process of proving, then, no, the publishers should remain loyal to this Great Idea and not take risks.
Books should be published only by politicians, politicians' wives or indeed husbands, celebrity chefs, celebrity scientists, perhaps even celebrities in general, footballers, footballers' wives, and Martin Amis or Chrisopher Hitchens.

Naima Smith said...

As long as there are people who buy books, publishers shouldn't stop publishing books.

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Nicholas Murray said...

I think that the logic of your proposition is unassailable

Nannette Croce said...

It will soon become obvious to large publishing houses that the only way to go is the POD model. Without the expense of printing copies that may never sell, publishers will be able to take more chances.

thesis writing said...

the logical destination of this is absolute idiocy, as mass culture is in the experimental process of proving, then, no, the publishers should remain loyal to this Great Idea and not take risks.