Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cult of Youth? Pff!

An unnamed editor and Arrow publishing director Kate Elton are to be congratulated for flying in the face of the cult of youth and, respectively, rescuing from the slush pile and publishing the memoir of 96-year-old Harry Bernstein. And hooray for Bernstein, I say.

Here's what Bernstein has to say:
If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book. It just could not have been done even when I was 10 years younger. I wasn't ready. God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.
Interestingly, the International Herald Tribune reports: Because Bernstein's book arrived without a cover letter from an agent, Elton said, "it had none of the overhyped pitch that you sometimes get with these things, and I read it without knowing what I was getting at all" which makes one wonder if agent hype sometimes gets in the way of a book's chances with jaded or cynical publishers.

Mind you, this book is a memoir, the current golden egg laying goose of publishers. Bernstein, a lifelong writer who has only now achieved his breakthrough, tells us:
I realized ... why I had failed in writing novels. Because I turned away from personal experience and depended on imagination.
I know what he means: that had he confronted his personal experience via fiction, then his fiction might have been more successful, but the statement is unfortunately in danger of feeding into the current prejudice against fiction or 'imagination' in favour of memoir and 'fact'.

Thanks to Grumpy Old Bookman for the link.
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