I just finished reading Diana Athill's wonderful memoir about her experiences in the publishing world, Stet: An Editor's Life. She worked for more than forty years with the firm Andre Deutsch from just after WWII until the mid-1980s, and she has some really amazing stories to tell, which she does with verve and panache. I'm not going to go into detail about the book now, as it is a Slaves read, which will be discussed at the end of the month. But I will give you a gentle nudge if it looks like something you would enjoy. If you have an interest in the publishing world, memoirs, and/or a curiosity about writing, do give this a whirl. And of course you are more than welcome to join in the Slaves discussion, too. (It's a quick read by the way).
I do want to mention a little bookish serendipity, however. I love it when books cross paths with each other. Earlier this week I thought it was time to revive my Molly Keane reading project, and so have been reading Mad Puppetstown. Lo and behold, who does Athill write about (she writes about a number of authors--keep pen and paper close by if you read Stet as you will likely be jotting down titles to take a closer look at). Molly Keane wrote more than a dozen books, but nearly thirty years separates the first eleven from the last three. When Keane married and started a family she gave up writing, and only came back to it as a widow much later. Andre Deutsch published those last three books and Athill edited her work.
I was already convinced that Keane is an author to investigate and explore, but Athill just brings to the fore how much I want to do so, and it serves as a reminder that I need to keep going with my project and not let it languish again as her best books are yet to come. Molly Keane is someone Athill describes as "a person she liked best among those she got to know on the job". She writes about Keane with obvious affection and respect, so I thought I'd share a couple of quotes here in order to keep with my other posts on Molly Keane.
"He [John Gielgud--Keane didn't just write novels, but also plays] also paid a warm tribute to her charm and wit, adding that 'she was endlessly painstaking and industrious'--slightly surprising words applied to someone as sparkly as Molly, but they do catch the absence of pretentiousness in her attitude to her work. Her background was that of the Irish landed gentry, whose daughters were lucky, in her day, if they got more than a scrappy education. Not that most of them, including Molly, were likely to clamour for more, since horses and men interested them far more than anything else; but Molly had come to feel the lack and it made her humble; she needed to be convinced that she was a good writer."
"The chief difference, it seems to me, between the person who is lucky enough to possess the ability to create--whether with words or sound or pigment or wood or whatever--and those who haven't got it, is that the former react to experience directly and each in his own way, while the latter are less ready to trust their own responses and often prefer to make use of those generally agreed to be acceptable by their friends and relations. And while the former certainly include by far the greater proportion of individuals who would be difficult to live with, they also include a similarly large proportion of individuals who are exciting or disturbing or amusing or inspiring to know. And Molly, in addition to having charm and being good, was also a creator."
It sounds as though, and I think I've heard this before, her best or most highly regarded novel is Good Behaviour, which Athill writes about in a little detail. This, of course, makes me all the more anxious to read it soon, though I am going to try and continue reading the books in the order they were written. Something to look forward to--a little incentive, if you will.