Publishing

The Australian Bookseller & Publisher serves as the trade magazine for the Australian publishing and bookselling industry. It derives a substantial amount of its revenue from the advertisements that publishers place in it.

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In late March 1941, more than six months into the relentless German aerial campaign that was then destroying great swaths of London’s fabric and spirit, Virginia Woolf filled the pockets of her heavy overcoat with stones and waded into the River Ouse. Her suicide occurs halfway through Will Loxley’s scattergun study of English writers and writing during the war, though its inevitability haunts the first half of the book, as claustrophobic as the pea-soupers that had defined London’s self-image in the centuries before the Blitz took on that singular responsibility.

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It was one of the most notorious episodes in the annals of Australian publishing. In September 1993, writing in Quadrant, Peter Ryan, the former director of Melbourne University Press (1962–87), publicly disowned Manning Clark’s six-volume A History of Australia. Clark had been dead for barely sixteen months. For scandalous copy and gossip-laden controversy, there was nothing to equal it, particularly when Ryan’s bombshell was dropped into a culture that was already polarised after more than a decade of the History Wars.

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Craig Munro’s latest book shines a spotlight on the work of some very different Australian book editors. It begins in the 1890s, when A.G. Stephens came into prominence as literary editor of The Bulletin’s famous Red Page. It continues through the trials and tribulations of P.R. (‘Inky’) Stephensen in publishing and radical politics in the interwar period and his internment during the war for his association with the Australia First Movement. Literary Lion Tamers then moves on to Beatrice Davis’s long career as a professional book editor with Angus & Robertson after World War II. It concludes with Rosanne Fitzgibbon, with whom Munro developed fiction and poetry lists at the University of Queensland Press.

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Okay, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this country. For a start, we have this profoundly stupid and deeply irritating myth that we’re all irreverent freedom-loving larrikins and easygoing egalitarians, when it is painfully obvious that we have long been a nation of prudes and wowsers, that our collective psyche has been warped by what Patrick Mullins describes, with his characteristic lucidity, as ‘a fear of contaminating international influences’, and that we are not just an insular, conservative, and deeply conformist society, but for some unaccountable reason we take pride in our ignorance and parochialism. And let’s not neglect the fact that we are cringingly deferential and enamoured of hierarchy. Oh yes, it’s all master–slave dialectics and daddy issues around here. Why the hell else would we keep electing entitled, smirking, condescending autocrats?

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The ‘untold history’ of Faber & Faber should be a cause for celebration. For so many of us, possessing the unadorned, severe paperbacks with the lower-case ‘ff’ on the spine meant graduation to serious reading: coming of literary age by absorbing the words and thoughts of Beckett, Eliot, Larkin, Stoppard, Hughes, Plath ...

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Harold Evans, the celebrated former editor of London’s The Sunday Times and ex-president of Random House USA, is angry. He fulminates against lazy journalism, against the impenetrability of government announcements, and against the pseudo-legal language of terms and conditions we ...

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This is an American book and no doubt primarily aimed at those interested in how American publishing works, and specifically at those interested in gaining employment there or upgrading their skills. In Australia it will be of limited use to those with similar ambitions and interests, because the Australian ...

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Penguin is synonymous with publishing: a firm of vast influence and market share, whose ‘Classics’ imprint essentially arbitrates the modern canon. The founding myth goes something like this: Allen Lane, eccentric genius and publisher, was standing on a railway platform after a weekend with his chum, Agatha Christie. In want of a decent, cheap read, he visited a ...

Ulysses was the first novel to become a celebrity in the mass media age. Its reputation was ‘enhanced’ by its alleged scurrility, its banning in the Anglophone world in both serial and book form, its having engendered legal proceedings centred on obscenity and copyright, and its notoriety as a wilfully difficult text. James Joyce wrote a novel that aspired to map its author’s home city – he claimed its success would be founded on the ability to reconstruct Dublin brick by brick from the novel, should the city cease to exist – and to ‘keep the professors busy for centuries’ (so far successful, one would have to say). George Bernard Shaw called it ‘a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilization’, while many other writers and critics dissented, claiming Ulysses to be the wonder of the literary world, a work of genius elevated beyond the ephemera of provincial morals and pearl-clutching citizens’ committees. It encompassed a world in its pages, and created it anew. The novel re-imagined modernity, drawing myth and epic and tragedy into its field of vision, and provided readers with the means to see their lives in the same milieu as that of Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, Molly Bloom, Blazes Boylan, and all the rest. It changed everything.

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