BOOK SOCIETY by Graham Watson


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The personal and leisurely affair the book trade once was is reflected in these discursive reminiscences by a British literary agent who has worked at the London office of Curtis Brown since 1948. Watson's father, a Congregationalist teetotaler from Newcastle, made his fortune importing cans of the sardine-like Norwegian brisling and founded the pre-war publishing house of Nicholson and Watson, more or less to give his sons something to do. Instead, the war came, and Watson devotes a chapter to his years in the artillery in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and his participation in the European invasion. The rest is pleasant book chat, except for a chapter on a minor brush with the Official Secrets Act over a leaked document and another on what a literary agent does. Watson writes of his friendship with American authors John Steinbeck, John O'Hara, and Ruth McKenney, among others, and his dealings with certain American publishers. But mostly he tells lunchtime and teatime ancedotes about British writers, many of them unfamiliar on this side of the ocean, and such figures in British publishing as Victor Gollancz, Stanley Unwin, Billy Collins, Jonathan Cape, and Norah Smallwood. Even Anglophilic booklovers will find this a weak brew.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum