Friday, November 06, 2009

"Nothing of the costly showiness of Proust and Virginia Woolf"

At the Guardian, Stefan Collini has a very good piece on the new volume of Eliot letters:
Much of Eliot's editorial correspondence deals with what, to anyone who has any experience of literary journalism, will be bound to appear as the familiar constants, almost the universals, of the trade. Here, over and over again, is the desperate last-minute scramble to meet (or sometimes not quite to meet) the deadline for the current issue, followed by repeated resolutions to have the material ready in good time for the next issue. Here, in dispiriting quantity, are examples of the various ways of sucking up to eminent potential contributors, of well-meant evasiveness with lesser supplicants, and of tactful dealings with imposssibly difficult authors (Wyndham Lewis wins the prize). Here, too, are the familiar grumblings about the inefficiency of printers, the usual unrealistic fantasies about circulation and the vehemently expressed regrets at ever having taken on such a doomed and life-destroying enterprise in the first place.

Apologising to one contributor for the fact that, a year after being accepted, his article had still not been published, Eliot tried to enlist his sympathies: "I can only say that there are others – in fact nearly all of my contributors at one time or another – whom I do not dare to meet in the street. Conducting a review after 8pm in the back room of a flat, I live qua editor, very much from hand to mouth, get myself into all sorts of hot water and predicaments, and offend everybody. At the end, the review is squeezed together somehow, and is never the number that I planned three months before." In this case, he promised the article would be published "early next year"; in the event, it never appeared.

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