STET – Diana Athill (2000, Granta Books, £12.99, ISBN: 978-1862-073883)

I am a collector of books about publishing, but somehow I missed this title when it was first published in 2000. Ms Athill worked for André Deutsch Ltd for most of her life, in the process gaining much respect from fellow publishing professionals as well as the authors for whom she was responsible. The book falls into two general parts: the first is an informal history of the firm and her role in it, the second describes some of the more famous authors she worked with. These include Brian Moore, Jean Rhys, V. S. Naipaul (who later described this book as “feminine tosh”, but not in an unkind way, you understand) and Mordecai Richler.

I must say I found the book something of a disappointment: the story of the emerging indie publishing house is sketchy and incomplete, and her anecdotes about these writers are bland and calculated not to offend. Every negative judgement is immediately ‘balanced’ by gushing admiration for their wonderful works. Even Naipaul, whose lounge-lizard charmlessness is a blight on the art of authorship, gets off pretty lightly.

The book is a surprisingly poor piece of publishing, considering its subject: a dull cover, no interior photographs, no contents page and no index.