March 29, 2005

Plan to immortalize self as "greatest publisher ever" hits snag . . .


In a new autobiography released this month in Britain, Tom Maschler, former chairman of the prestigious literary house Jonathan Cape, recounts his years as one of Britian’s most successful publishers. The book, Publisher, which features an author photo that shows Maschler wearing a tee&3150;shirt that says “The World’s Greatest Publisher,” is being hailed as a major literary event. Maschler co-founded the Booker Prize, published Joseph Heller‘s Catch 22, Philip Roth‘s Portnoy’s Complain, and Desmond Morris‘s The Naked Ape> He was the publisher of Doris Lessing, John Fowles, Arnold Wesker, Roald Dahl, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Martin Amis, and brought Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thomas Pynchon, Tom Wolfe, and Kurt Vonnegut to British readers.” In an interview with the Independent’s John Walsh, Maschler modestly simplifies his career in publishing by saying that “You can only go wrong in publishing by paying too much money for a book because it isn’t as good, or as sellable, as you thought.” Meanwhile, however, the book has been met with mixed reviews. In a review for The Telegraph, Claudia FitzHerbert notes that “Maschler has an unfailing eye for the untelling detail,” while a Sunday Times review by John Carey, notes Maschler’s ponderous style, citing his observation that the Frankfurt Book Fair, get this, “takes place in Frankfurt, so that if I wish to attend, I am obliged to go to Germany.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.