Let It Stand


This is not the cover of the copy I read, but I love this photograph of her!

Stet: An Editor’s Life is yet another book that’s been in my TBR for some time. I don’t read a lot of memoirs or biographies, but as a reader, I find the work of editors fascinating. These days, I also find employment as a proofreader for advertising, so the topic is even more of interest to me than before.

Diana Athill is known as one of the great British editors of the 20th century. She worked with writers such as John Updike, V. S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood (!), Jack Kerouac, and Mordecai Richler, to name a few. The publishing firm she helped found, André Deutsch, also published blockbusters like Peter Benchley’s Jaws. The firm no longer exists, but Athill was there from its inception through its heyday, and much of her memoir centers on it.

Athill writes in a breezy, confident manner, with just the right economy of thought and wit. More than half the book is given to how she found her profession and helped establish André Deutsch, and is peppered with anecdotes about love affairs (without name dropping), writers and industry insiders, travel, and the day-to-day of the publishing world from roughly the 1950s through the early 1980s (she retired in her 70s after 50 years in publishing). Continue reading