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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Two New Books Have Anglophiles and Bibliophiles Covered | Books - The New York Times

“Human Relations and Other Difficulties” gathers acute, witty essays and reviews by Mary-Kay Wilmers, and “Faber & Faber,” by Toby Faber, tells the history of the venerable publishing house where Wilmers and others have worked by Dwight Garner, book critic for The Times.

Photo: Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times

Book critic’s rule No. 117: When the late-summer doldrums hit, when the city is halitotic and iced minted tea is a meager defense, turn to literary Brits to cool your spine and crisp your produce.

Mary-Kay Wilmers’s new book, “Human Relations and Other Difficulties,” is a selection of her essays and book reviews, most of them published in The London Review of Books, the sure-footed and high-minded biweekly paper she co-founded in 1979 and has presided over as sole editor since 1992.

These pieces range from considerations of writers such as Jean Rhys (“she was always incredibly lonely because in her own mind no one else existed”), Alice James and Sybille Bedford to essays about obituaries, child rearing and the nature of seduction...

In a new book titled “Faber & Faber: The Untold Story,” Toby Faber, the grandson of the company’s founder, relates this house’s story as it celebrates its 90th anniversary. He does so ingeniously, compiling it from original documents — letters, memos, catalog copy, diary entries. It’s a jigsaw puzzle that slowly comes together.

Faber & Faber didn’t make every writer happy at every moment. James Joyce once referred to the firm as Feebler and Fumbler. Hughes quoted a friend who called it Fagin and Fagin. But from the start this was a publisher with a high purpose — to publish literature as opposed to trash, at least nearly all of the time. As Eliot commented in a 1952 letter, his ambition with certain books was “not to make money, but to see that we lose as little as possible.”

This is, in many regards, a business book. You may learn more than you wanted to know about things like laminates and cartridge paper requirements. 
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Source: The New York Times