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Stet

An Editor's Life
Narrated by: Jan Cramer
Length: 7 hrs and 20 mins
4 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For nearly five decades Diana Athill edited (nursed, coerced, coaxed) some of the most celebrated writers in the English language - among them V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth, Mordecai Richler, and Norman Mailer. A founding editor of the prestigious publishing house Andr Deutsch Ltd., Athill takes us on a guided tour through the corridors of literary London, offering a keenly observed, devilishly funny, and always compassionate insider's portrait of the glories and pitfalls of making books.

Stet is spiced with candid insights about the type of people who make brilliant writers and ingenious publishers and the idiosyncrasies of both. It brims with Athill's memories of serving as confidante, midwife, and sometime therapist to great literary figures: Nobody who has read Jean Rhys' first four novels can suppose that she was good at life, but no one who never met her could know how very bad she was at it; "It was my job to listen to [Naipaul's] unhappiness and do what I could to ease it, which would not have been too bad if there had been anything I could do." Most of all it is Athill's voice that captivates - intimate, lively, generous, humorous, the voice of a favorite aunt who is as warm and big-hearted as she is worldly and irreverent.

Packed with delights, Stet is about the world of books, about people who write them and the process of making them, a world dissected with sharp and irresistible honesty. It is an invaluable contribution to the world of literature.

©2000 Diana Athill. Recorded by arrangement with Grove Atlantic, Inc. (P)2015 Audible Inc.

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 01-02-16

An inside look at publishing

Diana Athill worked for a London publishing company for approximately fifty years. Athill edited some of the best minds of the post war (WWII) generation, including John Updike, Gitta Sereny, Philip Roth, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Molly Keane, and George Orwell and many more. During World War II she worked for the BBC.

Athill discusses her life as an editor including her wartime fling with Hungarian expat Andre Deutsch of the Deutsch Ltd. Publishing Company for whom she later worked. This book provides a glimpse inside the world of authors, editors and publishing. Athill is quite candid, funny, witty and astute about her workplace.

I learned a new term while reading this book. I love to learn new words. “Stet” is an editing term. A copy editor wanting to rescue a deletion puts a row of dots under it and writes Stet (let it stand) in the margin.

The book is well written and charming. I would assume that the bibliophiles would be the major purchasers of this book. The book is about seven hours long and the narrator Jan Cramer does an excellent job.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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A Woman's Publishing Career in 20th C. London

If you are interested in getting into the weeds of British publishing at a scrappy company (Andre Deutsch) that grew to publish the likes of V.S. Naipul, Jean Rhys and John Updike, told in the delightful voice of its longtime chief editor, this book is for you. That sounds a bit snarky, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I hadn't heard of all the personalities Athill dissects and discusses, with gossipy relish. It's a juicy listen for a certain type of nerd, I guess, of which I must be one. The experience is greatly enhanced by the excellent narration, which is sprightly and clear as a bell and ever so British, though Jan Cramer gamely tries American accents too (with mixed results).