A namesake and descendant delivers a richly detailed biography of the distinguished British publishing house.
After World War I, returning veteran Geoffrey Faber found himself relieved from a job for which he didn’t have much talent, running a brewery, and talked his way into a medical publishing house, setting about diversifying the list with a literary magazine, works of fiction, and “legal cram books.” While the last never came about, writes Faber (Faberge's Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire, 2008, etc.), Geoffrey eventually shaped a list dominated by literature, publishing many of the greats. As he wrote to a friend, the company’s new premises on Russell Square provided an incentive “to build up as fine a publishing business as we can to inhabit it!” As the author writes in this documentary biography of the company, Geoffrey was fortunate in taking on the American poet T.S. Eliot, so much an Anglophile as to be more English than the English, as an early editor. Eliot often rejected submissions, but he also encouraged work by poets such as W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, helping make Faber a major presence in the literary world from the 1930s on. At the same time, other editors and directors brought in notable writers such as William Golding, who delivered a manuscript that he called A Cry of Children, soon to be superseded by a Faber editor’s much more memorable Lord of the Flies. The author isn’t shy about sharing the fiscal details of publishing, opening with the old adage that the way to make a small fortune in the business is to start with a large one. He also provides insight into the publishing work of rock legend Pete Townshend, who, despairing of the future of his band, came to work for Faber & Faber in 1983, writing what one colleague called "good old-fashioned publishing reports, very serious, very diligent reports on the books we’re considering.”
Students of modernist literature and publishing history will find this a pleasure.