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Comment from the book world in January 2020

January 2020

'The sense of being alien in your own world'

27 January 2020

‘I do feel that the world in which I grew up and have lived all my life is ending. And that's true in all the countries that I've cared about in my life and written about: India, England and here. What I thought was the given, how the places worked, has changed in all three cases. I guess it is a characteristic of old age, that you begin to have the sense of being alien in your own world.'

Salman Rushdie, author of Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses, Quichotte and Shame in The Times


'The biggest kick'

20 January 2020

‘The biggest kick is reading something new and exciting and then getting other people to share your enthusiasm... Beyond all the cant and hypocrisy in publishing, that's what it's all about...'

On receiving the Maxwell Perkins Award for lifetime achievement:

‘I have always found comfort in the confines of a book or a manuscript, Reading is how I spend most of my time and is still the most joyful aspect of my day. I want to be remembered not as an editor or publisher, but as a reader...

It has been said that my outlook can sometimes be dour, even dire. I don' think you can work is this business without faith or optimism. Reading a manuscript, sensing something special about it, and believing you can find readership for it, is an article of faith.'

Sonny Mehta, Publisher of Knopf, who died recently.

"Margaret has to die soon."

13 January 2020

‘Writers make everybody nervous but we terrify Silly Service workers. Our apartments always look like a front for something, and no matter how carefully we tidy up for guests we always seem to miss the note card that says, "Margaret has to die soon." We own the kind of books that spies use to construct codes, like The Letters of Mme. de Sevigne, and we are the only people in the world who write oxymoron in the margin of the Bible. Manuscripts in the fridge in case of fire, Strunk's Elements in the bathroom, the Laramie City Directory explained away with "It might come in handy," all strike fear in the GS-7 heart. Nobody really wants to sleep with a writer, but Silly Service workers won't even talk to us'

Florence King, author of Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady and nine other books.


"I don't know where to start"

6 January 2020

‘"I don't know where to start," one [writing student] will wail. Start with your childhood, I tell them. Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can. Flannery O' Connor said that anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done. Don't worry about doing it well yet, though. Just get it down." 

Anne Lamott, author of seven non-fiction books, and the forthcoming Hallelujah Anyway, and two novels, Imperfect Birds and Rosie.