FINAL PROOF: MEMOIRS OF A PUBLISHER
by Peter Ryan
Quadrant Books, $44.95 hb, 210 pp, 9780980677836
‘Thank God I have done with him!’ – the words uttered by Dr Johnson’s publisher when he received the final proofs of the dictionary from its author – might well have been Peter Ryan’s own in 1988 when Manning Clark confessed that he had changed his mind about the character and career of Robert Menzies. No longer did Clark consider him an ‘imperialistic booby’. Melbourne University Press was about to publish the final volume of Clark’s History of Australia, and the book was printing as the author confessed that he no longer believed his own, uncomplimentary text. This, for Clark’s publisher, Peter Ryan, was ‘the last straw’ in their tumultuous publishing relationship of twenty-six years. He boycotted the launch, and five years later he let fly in the pages of Quadrant with a critical attack on the press’s most profitable author, his methodology, and his work.