Sigggh. I always tear up at his 'stepping back from M&S' letter.
The following snippets are why I love this book:
To Mordecai Richler: "I am sendinSigggh. I always tear up at his 'stepping back from M&S' letter.
The following snippets are why I love this book:
To Mordecai Richler: "I am sending to you today under separate cover a copy of Lolita. Since it was a gift to me from the Canadian publisher, I am able to pass it on to you in the same way. I hope you're not arrested because of it."
From Mordecai Richler: "What sort of advance did you pay Norman [Levine] for his stories, goddamn it! He's got a shoeshine box out on Trafalgar Square and wears a sweatshirt with McCLELLAND & STEWART printed on the back."
To Irving Layton on his book: "... we still need a stronger injection of sex if you can find it. [...] There must be some sexy poetry around."
From Margaret Laurence: "Do you have any good idea man who might make some worthwhile [title] suggestions? I don't think I can. I'm really sorry, Jack, as I feel I have been so much trouble to you of late. Maybe someday it will all be seen to have been worth it--I hope so." (The novel in question was The Stone Angel.)
From Leonard Cohen: "Nobody is going to buy a book the cover of which is a female body with my face for tits [...] The cover is unacceptable. I will consider its publication an act of hostility."
To Thomas H. Raddall (1973): "It's becoming virtually impossible to sell a book well today without turning the author into almost a full-time huckster."
To Margaret Atwood: "The thing you don't realize, my dear girl, is that I have been forced by the economic realities to start taking publishing very seriously. For example, it has been brought to my attention that our ability to continue to pay the hordes of people employed by M&S (God knows how many mouths have to be fed) depends entirely on the number of copies of your new novel [Life Before Man] that we are able to sell between September and Chrsitmas."
From Farley Mowat: "Another book? Are you kidding? Not unless I'm born again."
Jack McClelland, CanLit, you are amazing.
"I say to hell with stuffy protocol. Let's celebrate our authors." - Jack McClelland in a letter to Edward Schreyer (then the Governor General of Canada re: the GA's Literary Awards), 1981
Re-reading this after a long time apart. I love this book. The Selected Letters of Jack McClelland is one of my all-time favourites. I think every one should read it. Unfortunately, it's not really an easy sell of a book. It makes me sad to think of how many people I could CHASE AWAY trying to describe this thing. Like, Oh, yeah. It's the selected letters of Jack McClelland. Canadian publisher. You know, McClelland & Stewart? Big hand in the careers of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen?
And I think that's why all I chose to say, in my initial review was, "Jack McClelland was BAD ASS and don't you forget it."
I am going to try again... it deserves more than that (although Jack McClelland WAS bad ass).
This book is so much more than that. It's a glimpse of a man who loved books and loved Canada, did his best by both, and made an unquantifiable impact on CanLit and it's a look into the history of CanLit and Canadian publishing and publishing in general (but you don't have to be hot for any of these things to get a kick out of and really enjoy this book). It is so fascinating to read this and see Canadian history reflected in the making of Canadian history (does that make sense?). Like how he approached publishing books with an eye on The Unity Problem at the time. Or how McClelland went from urging four-letter words out of his manuscript for fear of public outry (and so as not to offend Aunt Gemma, whose $3 "are as good as anyone else's") to, "We're now publishing books freely with all the four-letter words..." and staunchly defending his authors' right to write them. He stayed on top of and ahead of the times, which is no small part in why he made the impact he did.
Jack McClelland was noted for saying he didn't buy books--he bought authors and it's so true. The way he respected and worked with and gave himself to them is just incredibly inspiring. And these aren't just letters from McClelland--they're letters to him. Angry letters from Al Purdy. Happy ones. Margaret Atwood talking of lost manuscripts and feeling she didn't get promoted enough. Leonard Cohen, unhappy with a proposed cover for Flowers for Hitler ("The cover is unacceptable. I will consider its publication an act of hostility... let's be two good soldiers with different uniforms.") A nice look at the development stages of books that would later go on to be Canadian classics (or books that got cancelled before they ever got the chance to reach anyone) and authors who would become the pride of CanLit... it is easy to understand the kind of loyalty McClelland inspired in his stable of authors from these letters. And it is easy, very obvious, to see the impact he had on Canada, even though he's damn modest about it in these pages. But I don't think he had time to be egotistical. He worked TIRELESSLY. Apparently he'd write up to 20 letters a day. BEFORE EMAIL!
A lot of my love for this book might be attached to the fact that the first time I read this I was 1) trying to get published and 2) in the throes of a mad love affair with Canada (I am always in the throes in a mad love affair with Canada though). I have a lot of happy memories just tied to the TIMING of when I read this book. I feel that when I re-read it. But even if I didn't, I would think it brilliant and important. Every time I get to the letter stating his resignation of President of M&S, I get choked up. He did so much & it made a difference.
Uggh I just want you guys to go READ THIS NOW and then after you do, come back and say, "You're right, Courtney. Jack McClelland IS bad ass." And I will just be like, "I know!" Or, "I told you so!" Or, "I know, I told you so!"
There is nothing startling about this book. None of it will make you go, "Oh, so THAT'S who Pierre Trudeau was." But it is amazing anyway and I lovedThere is nothing startling about this book. None of it will make you go, "Oh, so THAT'S who Pierre Trudeau was." But it is amazing anyway and I loved it. I could be biased, though. But I doubt it....more