Tuesday 3 July 2012

...just a walking the dog

As always, I’ve been informed and entertained by the New Yorker this week. No grand biographies or political commentaries this time, just an anecdote that seems to me to capture quite nicely how I imagine the role of the author in the publishing business (at least in the eyes of the publishers). It’s a little snippet taken from a long and affectionate tribute by John McPhee to his various editors and publishers, “The Name of the Subject Should Not Be the Title”:

My grandfather was a publisher. The house was the John C. Winston Company, “Book and Bible Publishers,” of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and on their list was the Silver Chief series, about a sled dog in the frozen north. That dog was my boyhood hero. One day, I was saddened to see in a newspaper that Jack O’Brien, the author of those books, had died. A couple of years passed. I went into high school. The publishing company became Holt, Rinehart & Winston, and my Uncle Bob’s office moved to New York. When I was visiting him there one day, a man arrived for an appointment, and Uncle Bob said, “John, meet Jack O’Brien, the author of ‘Silver Chief.’” I shook the author’s hand, which wasn’t very cold. After he had gone, I said, “Uncle Bob, I thought Jack O’Brien died.” Uncle Bob said, “He did die. He died. Actually, we’ve had three or four Jack O’Briens. Let me tell you something, John. Authors are a dime a dozen. The dog is immortal.

You hear that, precious creative types?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Ian Fleming; Charles Dickens; Agatha Christie; Robert Louis Stevenson; William Shakespeare. Can you hear me William Shakespeare? Get over yourselves already: we're all just walking the dog....and the damn dog is immortal.

It's probably raining too.  It's bound to be raining.  I bet the dog has his own little jacket too....and you left your coat at home.

(dammit.  Am I talking about the weather again, or did I get away with it?  I think I got away with it...)


  1. Thanks for that reminder. I'm currently about nine issues behind with the New Yorker, but I'll catch up in August when I take the unread ones on holiday.

  2. There's only been the one David Belbin, I trust?