A London agent sent me a note saying that she couldn’t risk her reputation by submitting In Praise of Older Women to a publisher. Esquire sent back the typescript with a giant pencilled ‘NO!!!’ scrawled across the last page. Helen Gurley Brown sent it back with a polite note saying it was ‘too sexy for Cosmopolitan’. And that was in the Swinging Sixties. Nor did it end there: no one in France would publish it until 2001.
A student paper called In Praise ‘a happy novel about sex’. This happiness is infectious, but it is also offensive, as sex has always been more hurt than joy to many. Sex bares the ego as much as the body. It makes us vulnerable; we hate to read anything about it that challenges our self-image.
Back in 1965, I ended up publishing In Praise myself in Toronto and, thanks to the endorsement of Northrop Frye, Earle Birney and other august figures, the novel won through. In America the books editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote to the publisher: ‘I have thrown my copy