27 April 2008

50 best cult books

The Telegraph runs a feature on "cult books" and I read it with a wry smile over my Easter lamb.

Thanks to my stint during the 1970s as publicist for the noble publishing house of Secker & Warburg (not forgetting the remarkable acquisitive eye of our MD at the time, the no less great TG Rosenthal - hi Tom!), a surprising number of those 'cult' scribblers "resonate" with me, as my American cousins would have it.

  • Germaine Greer, whose "Obstacle Race" I promoted, being the "Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work". And here's a trivial pursuit winner: the pictures editor for this book became my wife.
  • Erica Jong: I did the press and PR for the UK edition of 'Fear of Flying', and even got a few zipless ones out of it with certain journos keen to clinch interviews with Ms Jong.

    We flew Erica over to promote the book on radio and TV, and I even drove her up to my old alma mater, Oxford University, where she put in research for what I believe ended up as the romp, "Fanny, Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones".

  • Italo Calvino - another Secker author.
  • Alexandria Quartet: My mother got to know Durrell quite well. One luncheon at our Corfu house, a baby swallow fell from a nest and Larry (rather a squat chappie) grabbed a ladder and shoved the wee feathery lad back home before his parents spotted him AWOL. There is also a postcard somewhere in Mum's letter box from Larry luring her over to Paris. She did not take up the invite.
  • Sylvia Plath - my publicity office at Secker also housed most of the file copies and Ms Plath's work(s) occupied a 4th shelf just above my right ear. I was unaware of her importance at the time but most of my lady visitors would eventually glimpse The Name and do the 1974 equivalent of 'oh my gahd' and then fall silent. I know, a tenuous connection ....

Ah Secker ... how are the mighty fallen.

When I joined, its office was in Carlisle Street of darkest Soho, and John Blackwell and I would prop up the bar of the Nellie Dean. Then we moved to Poland Street and financed the Star & Garter.

Now it's part of some ghastly conglomerate in the back of beyond.

Good times, good people.

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