The inalienable schizophrenia of publishers

Fleur Talbot’s novel nearly doesn’t see the light of day.

“I made an appointment with Revisson Doe for three-thirty that day. I tried to pump him on the phone, whether there was ‘something wrong’ with my Warrender Chase but he wouldn’t be drawn into any discussion. He sounded edgy, rather unfriendly. He addressed me as Miss Talbot, forgetting about Fleur if he might. I didn’t know then, as I know now, that the traditional paranoia of authors is as nothing to the inalienable schizophrenia of publishers.”

Her publisher withdraws from his contract to publish, and then proofs and manuscript disappear as her employer, Sir Quentin Oliver at the Autobiographical Association, seeks to suppress the novel that has an eerie similarity to real life. This all works out well for Fleur as she eventually finds an effective agent and a reputable publisher, Triad Press. Everything goes well from their first meeting.

“The famous trio were sitting side by side at a desk. They were Leopold, Cynthia and Claude Somerville themselves, arbiters of taste and of belles-lettres. I think they shared a soul.”

The publisher’s ambitions are modest as Triad Press “printed a thousand copies of Warrender Chase, reckoning to sell five hundred.“. After a modest start there are numerous good reviews and interest from the BBC and Good Housekeeping. Then “Triad sold the American rights, the paperback rights, and most of the foreign rights to Warrender Chase. Good-bye, my poverty. Good-bye, my youth.

So Triad Press fulfills its cultural mission and makes money, the dual concerns of the successful schizophrenic publisher.

Muriel Spark, Loitering with Intent, 1981

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