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Q: What should a writer expect from his publisher?
A: Loyalty.

Literary history, of which publishing is only a part, is marvelous and fluid. The publishing of books is itself a curious undertaking. In Europe and America, the organization, financing, distribution, and expectation of profit of the industry, that is, its entire structure, is different than it was ten years ago. Substantially, however, what has been changed? Do people read more bad books than ever? Fewer good books? Why should a marketer’s opinion matter at an editorial meeting? What has become of the editor’s art?

Was publishing ever so good as it’s said to have been? What, indeed, was “gentlemanly” about it?

I thought I would ask some notables of an older generation what they thought about these matters. I wondered, What do publishers do? Why do they do it? What sort of lives do they lead?

In turn, they recounted experience, spoke of writers they published and did not publish, took note of the social and political hierarchies of their occupation, talked straight about money, commerce, and corporate capitalism, ruminated on the importance of language. They recognized that times have changed, but did not agree, necessarily, on why and how.

Excerpts of these conversations will appear regularly in ARCHIPELAGO and may serve as an opening onto an institutional memory contrasting itself with the current establishment, reflecting on its glories, revealing what remains constant amid the present flux. Despite their surround of gentility, these publishers are strong-minded characters engaged with their historical circumstances. Out of that engagement have appeared a number of books that we can say, rightly, belong to literature.


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Marion Boyars, of Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd

Marion Boyars began her publishing career in 1960, by buying half-equity in the firm of John Calder, who was known in England for publishing avant-garde writers, among them Samuel Beckett. In 1964, the firm took the name of both owners. For more than 15 years they published the work of novelists considered among the most avant-garde and literary in Britain, among them Beckett, William Burroughs, Henry Miller, Elias Canetti, Peter Weiss, Heinrich Böll, Hubert Selby (LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, prosecuted for obscenity); translations of the nouveau romain; the writings of modern composers, and books by social thinkers. In 1975, Boyars and Calder began to dissolve the company; by 1980, the list had been divided

Since 1975, Marion Boyars has published fiction, belles lettres and criticism, poetry, music, theater and cinema, social issues, and biography and memoirs.

Among book-people, she is considered a beautifully educated, very literary publisher with a strong list, particularly, in fiction and music. She publishes a number of Eastern European writers in translation and is, herself, fluent in three languages. How she succeeds financially is much speculated about, as her books are expensive; she is said to be very aggressive at selling rights. She is also said to be observed closely by agents and other editors, who have been known to take her authors away; with rueful pride, she acknowledges this. Odile Hellier, of the Village Voice Bookshop in Paris, praises her for having resuscitated the career of Julian Green, the nonagenarian Virginian novelist and diarist who is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of the Académie Française, and whose work is not well known in America.

Marion Boyars Publishers was to be found in a narrow building on a side-street in Putney, a busy little London village south of the Thames, beside a men’s hairstyling salon and a Pakistani take-away restaurant. A small display-window held a dozen or so recent volumes. This was a publishing “house” in the old-fashioned parlance. Inside, the editorial office accommodated five people, all of them capable editors, who read amid tall bookcases lining the walls. Authors’ photographs hung in the stairwell; desks were piled with books, papers, manuscripts. There were word processors but no computers. The fax machine worked erratically. The piles and stacks did not indicate disorder: this looked to be the sort of establishment run on idiosyncratic but perfectly reasonable lines. Upstairs, under the roof, the director’s office was a room smaller and more crowded with bookcases. The air was dense with cigarette fog.

Marion Boyars, director of her firm, was a tiny woman of indeterminate age and bright, sharp eyes. Her mouth was handsome; she smiled widely and often. Her voice was soft but emphatic, her accent not quite placeable; she was born in America but in 1950, had come to England to live, and had adapted its form to her intention. She was pleased her visitor did not mind the smoke.

Acquaintance was made, the tape recorder set up, the cigarette lit, the invitation given to go ahead. She was asked to reflect on why she became a publisher.

Why She Became a Publisher.

BOYARS: It’s a strange business. I find it very difficult to understand why anybody can do this now. You learn something about yourself: what you know; what you want. And I knew that I was not a writer. -- One’s curiosity is challenged, and it’s a complex field.

McNAMARA: You went into publishing because it seemed the thing to do?

BOYARS: Only for me. What I did, actually, was unusual at the time: I bought half a publishing company. I had a lot of confidence in myself, and I wanted to start a career that was intellectually stimulating and demanding. My financial advisor showed me an advertisement in The Bookseller: the publisher John Calder was looking for a partner. My advisor looked into it and thought it was a good idea. And then I met John Calder, and I liked him, and so I bought fifty percent equity in the firm. That was in 1960. We began at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

And we had adventurous times together, especially during the first ten years. The Calder & Boyars imprint published some of the best pioneering writers of the 60s, people like Samuel Beckett and Alain Robbe-Grillet, Georges Bataille, Ivan Ilich and John Cage, Hubert Selby, and so on. Our writers were often controversial -- we published in the fields of fiction, music, the social sciences.

But our relationship deteriorated. In 1975 we slowly dissolved the partnership: we created two new imprints, John Calder, and Marion Boyars. By 1980, the separation was complete. We had appointed an arbitrator to divide the old C&B list, but the division was uneven, in John’s favor, whereas I had bought 50% equity in the firm.

I had a wonderful lawyer. I called him up and said, “What should I do?” “Fight a little,” he said. And I fought a little; unsuccessfully. We continued to share premises, sales, and distribution, until I moved to these offices in 1984.

My goal in publishing was to give voice to exciting new ideas, you see, ideas which excited me. This list is a reflection of my own interests: I want to share these ideas. Many of the writers we published have become modern classics. I had some very good books from the old Calder & Boyars. The big money-maker is still ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. [Books and authors are listed at the end of Part 3.] That was my book.

But there is also a good percentage of failures.

She Was Their Mascot.

Publishing used to be called a gentleman’s occupation. It is perhaps best to remember that “gentleman,” in its primary meaning, does not mean mere good manners, but is a class or station in society; and furthermore, that good manners may be wielded as deftly and cruelly as any other weapon.

BOYARS: There was a strange club, a secret club for men who owned their publishing houses. Very few of them are left now; most have had to sell, and many of them have lost their job. But then, they were very elegant. There was a trip to Russia, the first delegation of British publishers to Russia, all the big boys of publishing, and me. It was because of that trip that I was invited to join the club.

McNAMARA: How did the trip to Russia come about?

BOYARS: There was going to be a delegation of British publishers to China. I had published a book about China [Julia Kristeva, ABOUT CHINESE WOMEN]. I was interested in the women, as women do the work in most countries; and I was an independent publisher. I was not accepted, because the Chinese wanted scientific and language publishers. The Publishers Association then promised me that I could select my next trip, and I chose Russia. I was part of the first English-language group to go; it was around 1981. A person from the Foreign Office briefed us beforehand, instructing us not to speak of politics.

Most of the group were scientific, or language, or specialized publishers. They said, “Why don’t you write an essay about fiction, translation, poetry, the theater?” So I went to the hairdresser, wrote my little essay, Arthur [Boyars, her husband] typed it, and it was published in their fifty-four languages.

But then I talked to them about literacy. “The benefits are not what you think they might be,” I said. I was proved right! Now the Russians want only potboilers.

But I made them laugh. Then I was assailed by a Russian who knew I had published a dissident. Arthur had translated him [Yuli Daniel, PRISON POEMS], but I had no political agenda and I wouldn’t engage them on political grounds. Then they tried to get me on my husband’s translations: Montale, Éluard.... All the others there knew what I was doing, and enjoyed it. They knew I wasn’t going to get caught out. And so, for two days we had a fine time, because we laughed. It didn’t last, of course, but my team saw how an atmosphere could be changed.

When we got back, they all had their limousines waiting for them. I had a husband waiting. (Great laugh.)

After the trip to Russia, the club secretary asked me to join. I was treated as their mascot. And I enjoyed it enormously. Some outsider actually found out about it and wrote articles. He called me; he said, “I found your name on the list of members.” I said: “There isn’t a list of members, surely!” It was a secret; so, somebody must have betrayed us. He said, “Anyway, you are a member of this club?” And I said: “Yes; of course.” He said, “What are you doing there? Is it for price-fixing? What’s the use of this club?” I said: “It is a social club!”

McNAMARA (laughing): What did you observe in this club?

BOYARS: Well, it was very interesting, because although you were supposed to be among a group of people who were not going to tittle-tattle -- because that was the only rule: you didn’t tittle-tattle -- and I’m sure they didn’t: it was all about, oh, you know, talking about the currents of publishing, and some commercial things about discounts to booksellers and chains, and other kinds of stuff -- they were not entirely truthful! I said to one of them, “What kind of discount do you give Waterstone’s?” “Oh, nothing special.” Well, of course you do. Forty-five percent is what you give them. (Laughs.) Now, this is very interesting. If they had been women, they would have said they give forty-five percent. This not coming straight out: they were not frank....

Now, Carmen Calill, the founder of Virago, is an interesting woman, actually. She gets what she wants, and she wants the right thing. She’s very good.

She’s rather out of it now (Virago has been sold to Little, Brown, which is owned by Time-Warner Communications). But the only way Virago could continue was by selling.

McNAMARA: Virago was a wonderful imprint.

BOYARS: Wonderful, a wonderful imprint. They went wrong when they published people other than the classics.--

She used to be very nice when she first started and we had something in common. She was very supportive. We used to say hello and were friendly.

I had a court case in America; somebody had cheated me. We won, in a sort of way; of course the lawyers took all the money. But I had to make a deposition. They asked me all sorts of questions which didn’t apply to me, but applied to her. They thought I was Carmen. I noticed it; and of course I could hardly contain myself with laughter. They think one woman is like all others. (Laughs.) After the meeting I was laughing. One of the lawyers noticed, and I said, “Well, you’re very funny.” “No, no,” he said, “there’s something specific you’re laughing about.” “Something specific? No. What?” “Oh come on,” he said: “you don’t want to tell me.” I said: “Nothing to tell.” I wasn’t going to tell!

But I mean....

McNAMARA: What did you mean when you said you were the publishing establishment’s “mascot”?

BOYARS: “Brave little publisher.”

McNAMARA: Right.

BOYARS: I’m sure they didn’t take me seriously, and they kind of liked me. I made them feel liberal and generous. I had a sense of fun, and I didn’t take myself too seriously. I’m small. I think that has something to do with it. If I were taller, if I had a large face, they would have been intimidated.

I don’t like this kind of role. I’m quite serious. They found Carmen Calill difficult, because she wasn’t like a little pet.


McNAMARA: You’ve lived in England since 1950.

BOYARS: I’m actually an American, but I went to school in Switzerland. I went to NYU, in New York; then, before graduation, I came here to get married. And they started a university, called Keele, in the Midlands, where I lived. So I went to Keele.

It was 1950, and there were as many undergraduates at that time in the whole of England as there were at Columbia and NYU combined: very elitist; and then they opened university education up, and now it’s wide-open. But at that time, for a girl to get into university was still rare.

There was a wonderful man called Lord Lindsay of Birker, Alexander Lindsay. He was a moral philosopher who taught at Balliol, and was made a peer. He was very, very socially concerned -- he was Labour. He invented my university.

I lived in Shrewsbury, along the Welsh border. There was a university in Birmingham. I had been at NYU already. I was too young to be a mature student, and they didn’t recognize my NYU credentials. And this college was being started, and it was work I admired, and so I went along. Lord Lindsay was a very open man. He had brought a new course to Oxford, PPE -- politics, philosophy, economics, called “Modern Greats,” which I took at Keele. For me it was absolutely wonderful, because it started with 150 students and 25 dons. You had the most personal education you could possible hope for; I mean, not only the tutorial system, which they used to have and is now almost gone, but you were with these people, you even had coffee with them. Lord Lindsay loved the students, he liked to talk with them, very much, over coffee.

Keele was the first university founded after the war. He had great ideas. It actually has a very good music department and a very good American literature department. His idea was to create a campus that didn’t exist at the time in England. He felt that English education was too narrow. And so he invented the foundation course. During the first year, it was a core-year course. You had lectures in every discipline: it made it possible for you to switch over from an arts subject to a science subject, if you wanted to; even for the degree course, the requirement was that you had to take at least one social science and one hard science, so that even the people in literature would have to take, say, an economics course. I took physics as a subsidiary, which was dubbed Physics for Fools. I rather liked it: it didn’t teach me much physics, but it taught me, and showed me, how the scientific mind works. I was interested in methodology. I didn’t know much about real science, and so, this gave me an insight, a little insight; and that was his idea, you know: to have a much broader education.

McNAMARA: That would have been a way of communicating between the “two cultures.”

BOYARS: That’s right; I’m sure [C.P.] Snow’s book had something to do with it, too. Lord Lindsay thought that with all the specialization there was, the scientists didn’t understand the arts students, who certainly didn’t understand the sciences.

I actually lived outside my college. It was residential; and I was married and so couldn’t have a room; I boarded during the week. One of the professors gave me a room. He was a professor of philosophy who was really more interested in poetry, and his wife was a writer. We would spend our evenings reading poetry. I had a second education living in that home.

And I had a car. I was the first student who was allowed to have a car, and it was great fun. It’s only 30 miles from Shrewsbury. I would drive over at 80 miles an hour. I had an old Ford V-8 two-seater, and when you opened up the trunk there were two more uncomfortable seats in there. And this was the fastest car on the road!

I was the only American, that’s number one. Number two, I was the only one who drove a car. And number three, I was the only one who was married.

McNAMARA: So you broke all the rules.

BOYARS: I broke every one of them. I had a very good time there. But, when we got our degree, Lady Lindsay said: “What are you going to do now dear?” She was like a little empress. I said: “Have babies.” “Oh, dear,” she said. I said, “Well, I’m married.” “Well, that’s all right then.”

So that’s what I did: I had babies.

McNAMARA: And then you decided to be a publisher.

BOYARS: I graduated in 1954, and then Susan was born in 1955, and the youngest one was born in 1957. And then I went to London in 1960, with my two little girls, and became a publisher.

McNAMARA: They really were little girls.

BOYARS: They were tots. It was a difficult life. My husband and I got divorced in 1962; he remarried almost immediately, but died in 1969. I moved to London and brought up my children. Later, I met somebody nice -- Arthur -- and we married in 1964.

In 1960, I went into a business that no woman had ever thought of going into under her own steam. I was actually the first woman publisher who didn’t inherit her business or assume it by marriage. I mainly broke the rules because I didn’t know them.

Is There A Literary Culture? If So, What Does It Look Like?

McNAMARA: What is a literary culture? Is there one? Are there many? 

BOYARS: Undoubtedly, but it’s too difficult to define. I mean, the non-literary culture couldn’t exist without the literary culture. Everybody knows about Marx and Freud, but you don’t have to read them: they’re essential, part of the lifeblood; but you don’t have to be part of it. Language develops because of literature. It doesn’t develop because of television.

McNAMARA: That might be argued.

BOYARS: Yes: I know it can be argued; that’s why I say it. I don’t think television has that much of an effect on “culture,” though it is informative, while literature has a lot of effect. This is why, when people say obscenity in literature doesn’t “do” anything, I think they’re wrong. Literature “does” something. I think obscenity and the forbidden, taboos, as such, are not important in themselves; but they are necessary subjects. It is the art that is made of them that refuses to allow us to remain complacent. These things make us reach beyond ourselves, move, grow. They are very important. And through art, we can actually do something positive. We become aware of life through it.

McNAMARA: Certainly, not all books are literature.

BOYARS: Certainly not.

McNAMARA: And much of what makes a literary culture--

BOYARS: --is language. It is the use of language, the ends to which it’s put. It’s how you put it on the page. People write to me and they say, “I’ve written a novel about a such-and-such a subject.” I’m not very interested in that. I’d like to know how you’ve done it, what you’ve done. Carlo Gebler, an Irish writer, has a new manuscript. Let me read you two lines: “My name is Douglas Peter; I am a Russian scholar. I am married to a Russian woman, and have been for forty years. I’m extremely miserable.”

Wonderful. It’s got everything there. And that’s in the juxtaposition. You could do the same thing in a newspaper report, but it wouldn’t be the same. I think this is what writing is.

Subsequently, she bought the book, entitled W9 AND OTHER LIVES; it will be published early in 1998.

Of course it’s refined, of course it’s shaped: it’s actually a lot of hard work. I know people who like to say that someday they’ll be a writer. Maybe. You need a lot of practice.

McNAMARA: A lot of practice, and stamina.

BOYARS: And you know, I just like it, I like books and ideas. They have a habit of growing. There is a radio program: three people choose a book, often an old one, and discuss why they like it. I think the one that I would choose, although I haven’t read it in many years, is TO THE FINLAND STATION. It’s a beautiful book, I remember, but also it opened my eyes. I’ve never been a Marxist; and I’ve studied political philosophy and economics, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to become a Marxist, but I never took to it. But he [Edmund Wilson] tells us how it is possible to become a Marxist, and he’s the only writer who’s done that. He opened my eyes when these things were very important, during the McCarthy era, and so really one had to sit up and listen. And I rejected it. But this book was to show me what was the attraction. And I must read it again.

McNAMARA: Are there books you think of as a, or the, foundation of a literary life?

BOYARS: Well, yes; WAR AND PEACE is certainly one of them. Plato’s REPUBLIC, Shakespeare’s plays. World literature -- the Russians; Thomas Mann, Rilke. Poetry. French classics. Updike, Joyce, Hemingway. There are so many books that have had an impact on me. -- I’ve read all my life. A lot of things had to be crammed down my throat when I was going through the educational process, but I’m very grateful for it. I mean, music, literature, poetry become just part of one’s background.

McNAMARA: Do you think there was a time when the readership was more secure than it is now?

BOYARS: No; no. I’ll give you an example: George Gissing, THE PRIVATE PAPER S OF HENRY RYCROFT; wonderful book. When it was published, in 1902, it sold sixteen copies.

McNAMARA: When Stendhal’s DE L’AMOUR appeared, it didn’t sell. His publisher said to him: “This book must be sacred, because no one will touch it!”

BOYARS: I don’t think this age is any less intellectual than any other age; nor do I think the sensibility of people is impaired. On the Continent, people read more. In France and Germany, they think it’s part of their culture to read.

McNAMARA: Do they buy the books, as well?

BOYARS: Of course, because there it’s very important to do it. You go into a German household and they have bookshelves. You go into an English household and they do not have bookshelves.

My original question continued to disturb her. She thought her comments were pointless, as no one could presume to “define” a “literary culture.” She spoke about writers America has produced.

BOYARS: Think of Melville, for instance, and Henry James; think of Bellow, and Updike. Innovative writers! Nowhere else could their novels have been written, and they have influenced writers everywhere. Frederic Tuten, who thinks he is a European in spirit, is not: he’s very American. No European could do what he does. This is where the literary language is developed: in America, with your wonderful mixture of peoples and languages and different sorts of experience; more so than in England, where we’re hide-bound by grammar and convention.

I pointed out that, although indeed we have good writers, much debate goes on in this country about the non-literary, entertainment-ridden, consumerist popular culture that is now, everywhere, called “American.”

BOYARS: All the Anglo-Saxon countries are unliterary, but they produce remarkable writers. John Cage [EMPTY WORDS; SILENCE], after all, was a remarkable writer, though he was a musician. There was Allen Ginsberg (d. April 5, 1997); there were the Beats: poets who were exceptional in their time. Perhaps the debate goes on because Americans, unlike the English, have always been self-deprecating.

Obscenity and Taboo. A Book On Trial.

BOYARS: I think there are some really key books -- one I think is a key book, not easy to read, is NAKED LUNCH, by William Burroughs (d. August 2, 1997), although I didn’t terribly like his later work. Burroughs was published in England by John Calder and Marion Boyars. In 1963, Arthur Boyars, who was a friend of John Calder, assembled a collection of Burroughs’ writings for the Literary Annual published by the firm; Calder and Boyars published NAKED LUNCH the following year. At about that time, the firm’s name was changed to reflect their joint ownership; Marion had married Arthur, a translator and literary man informally associated with the firm, and preferred to use his name to her father’s name and her previous husband’s.

McNAMARA: You said that obscenity and taboo are important to society, and that it is important for literature to break taboos.

BOYARS: I think every good artist breaks taboos. Because you have to; you have to: because the writer shows us where we are.

McNAMARA: In America the taboos often center around what is considered sex, or sexual representation.

BOYARS: Oh yes; it’s very puritanical, provincial. What can you do?

McNAMARA: What significant taboos exist here, and don’t exist in America? Or, the other way around?

BOYARS: Well, English society is almost impossible to describe, because the moment you understand it, it escapes. Now, the English are envious, and the taboo breakers bring this out. Very interesting politics here. We had a Prime Minister [John Major] who was a socialist under the Tory label, and we have(laughter) a Prime Minister [Tony Blair] who is a Tory but under the label of socialism. Very interesting.

The Thatcher business was awful: what she did was awful, and it was awful how they turned against her. She came from a different class, and was ambitious and made straight for what she wanted. They hated her, because she was a woman, and because she broke all the rules of the men’s clubs and did things in a different way, and because she used her handbag as a weapon. But, before she fell, they were all prostrating themselves. It was disgusting. You attack authority at the time authority is in power; not when it’s finished.

You’ve heard about the Oz case, from Australia? One of those underground magazines, put out by four young chaps. They commissioned some kids to do a kids’ Oz issue. The kids broke every taboo, they had no respect for anybody. They had a Teddy Bear who had an affair with another Teddy Bear. And they were taken to court over that.

McNAMARA: In this country?

BOYARS: Yes! It went on and on. I was there most of the time. It was fascinating, of course. They got a highly respected social scientist, and they asked him the serious question -- at the Old Bailey! -- “Would you tell us about the sex-life of Teddy Bears?”

You wouldn’t think that such stupidity can be committed by such sophisticated people, but it can, and they do it. The ‘60s and ‘70s were of course the ground for breaking taboos.

McNAMARA: You were prosecuted for obscenity.

BOYARS: We [Calder & Boyars] had an exhausting court case, a huge obscenity case brought against Hubert Selby’s book LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. It went first to Magistrates’ Court, then to the Old Bailey, then on appeal. We won the appeal, in 1969, but we lost twice before that, and we were, for a time, paralyzed.

But I didn’t know we were going to win -- we could have been sent to prison. But it wasn’t we who were in the dock, it was the book. When they prosecuted, the book was held up in the dock by a policeman. We were too well-behaved, we were Establishment ourselves. We were not pornographers, we were very respectable publishers. If we had been pornographers, we, not the book, would have been in the dock. Yet, we lost the first two rounds; and the lawyers were against an appeal. The reason they gave us was, we had suffered enough, they wanted to protect us from more heart-ache. But I think there were several reasons. They just didn’t approve of the book, really.

But I never considered not appealing. We behaved in a most elegant way: we withdrew the book from sale; we made it known that we were not going to have the best-seller we could have had. And they knew that. If we had not been, we would have been in danger of being sent to prison. In fact, they gave us only a fine: £100 -- I mean, no one gets fined £100; it’s nothing. We didn’t pay the fine and in fact, they paid for the appeal: if you win an appeal, they pay. So, I never considered not appealing; but we did something that had never been done before: we actually had our own transcript.

Just before the case started a salesman came to our office and wanted to sell me a tape recorder; this was the ‘60s. I said, “Hmm, not a bad idea, can you sell me one that would tape in a large room?” He said, “How large?” “Well,” I said, “I’m not quite sure, I’ve never been there before.” “What do you mean,” he said, “you want a tape recorder, you don’t know how big the venue is? Is it a theater?” “No, it’s not a theater. Well,” I said, “it’s the Old Bailey.” “Oh.” So he sold me a tape recorder. Then I rang my lawyer, and I asked him if we could bring it in, and he said, “I have to ask the Clerk of Court.” He called me back and he said, “This is the first request ever; therefore, there’s nothing against bringing it in.” And so we did. And my assistant and I: we didn’t only spend nine days in court, but nights, typing it up.

McNAMARA: It’s a job.

BOYARS: It’s a terrible job.

McNAMARA: You couldn’t have gotten a transcript? There would not have been an official transcript?

BOYARS: Yes, there is an official transcript; but it is not verbatim. It is what the man who takes it down he thinks he has heard; and the lawyers do, actually, the same. So, on the second day of the trial, when I came with my transcript and said to the chief barrister, “This is what happened yesterday,” he said, “Well, I don’t need to read this, I have my notes.” I said, “Yes, but your notes are not really accurate.” He was very angry with me. But: they actually withheld the official transcript from us. You have to appeal within six weeks; and they withheld it, they just didn’t send it. We didn’t need it, on the strength of our own. We got rid of our lawyers, and I hired John Mortimer, the novelist and playwright, who was a divorce lawyer and had never been concerned with this kind of thing. The first thing I did was to play the tape for him for an hour or so; and from there he did wonderful things.

The transcript, our own, is now in our archives, at the Lilly Library in Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan.

During our second conversation, in April, in New York, she spoke by phone to Hubert Selby’s agent and, upon hanging up, said, pleased, “Well, we have a new Selby.” She had just bought, in draft, his latest novel, to be called THE WILLOW TREE. “It’s very good,” she said, “I read it, and my editor read it. He wrote very long notes, almost a page-by-page analysis, to help with the editing. And, in fact, the author is feeling very well. He is starting with those notes: he’s got wonderful editing notes.” “What a dream,” I said, “to have editing notes.” “A dream to have that,” agreed Marion Boyars. “And then he and Ken Hollings, my editor, will get together. The agent asked how long would it take him -- six months, a year? ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’ll do it this summer. By the end of the summer you’ll have a manuscript.’”

(End of Part 1.)

Part 2 / Part 3 / Endnotes


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