In Defence of the Literary Editor by D J Taylor

D J Taylor

In Defence of the Literary Editor


One of the funniest scenes in Jonathan Coe’s The Closed Circle comes when Doug, the hitherto high-flying political journalist, learns of his latest professional appointment. Is he to be the paper’s political editor? Deputy editor, even? Alas, the news is too irksome to be borne. ‘LITERARY EDITOR’ he informs an audience of concerned friends. ‘Do you hear me? LITERARY – FUCKING – EDITOR. They want me to commission book reviews. They want me to spend every day putting novels into fucking jiffy bags and sending them out to… to… The cunts. The fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking CUNTS.’

I thought about this harangue the other day when, files of ancient press cuttings mournfully to hand, I became aware of the advent of a rather dreadful anniversary: twenty-five years ago next month that I got my first commission to review a novel. I can remember the circumstances with greater

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