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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Do Publishers Know Anything About Literature?

Tom McCarthy’s article in TimesOnline takes mainstream publishers to task:

. . . the art press Bookworks has just commissioned a series of novels to be guest edited by the artist-writer Stewart Home; the art publisher Sternberg Press recently won acclaim from the TLS for Bedlam, a novel by Jennifer Higgie, the editor of the art-mag Frieze; Metronome continues to publish novels exclusively by artists.

These people have no desire to become mainstream publishers: they are content to stay within the art world – where, they reason, the informed readership is. When the limited edition of Remainder started to pick up momentum, Waterstone’s asked if it could stock the book. Metronome refused, replying: “If people want it, they can go to the ICA.”

With thanks to The Reading Experience for the pointer to this one.

2 Responses to “Do Publishers Know Anything About Literature?”

  1. Paul says:

    Hi John,
    I read this article and loved the idea of someone saying “No!” to the system and the way things are done.
    There seems to be an attitude prevalent in the Industry that if anyone criticises what is happening, then they are either naive and ignorant of commercial practicalities, or just a petulant, frustrated, wannabe writer.

    jb says: Hi Paul. Loved it, too. I believe we are on the verge of some great and long overdue changes.

  2. Mark Thwaite says:

    I think McCarthy captures something very exactly in his Times piece. Certainly — and in this I concur completely with Tom — it is very often artists that I have the most interesting conversations with about Literature (with a big “L”) rather than with publishers. (Indeed, I was recently kindly invited, along with some other bloggers, to spend a very pleasant evening with Penguin and some of the lovely Penguin folk seemed quite taken aback when the conversation turned to Proust and Kafka!)

    But some (usually smaller) publishers are trying hard — immediately I think of Alma, Carcanet, Dalkey Archive, Hesperus, Profile, Verso — to publish interesting stuff. The news isn’t all bad.

    jb says: Hi Mark. Not really surprising, though, the reaction of the Penguin people to Proust and Kafka. You would find the same kind of reaction in almost any social situation. But I agree with you, things are stirring and changes are on the way.