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Stet Paperback – Mar 17 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Granta; New edition edition (March 17 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862074402
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862074408
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #668,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Format: Paperback
Anyone who has ever worked in newspapers or publishing will be familiar with 'stet', an age-old editor's term for 'let it stand', meaning disregard any and all changes.
This is an apt title for a memoir from one of London's best known and highly regarded editors, Dianna Athill, who spent 50 years massaging the words and assisting in the careers of many literary powerhouses, including V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys and Mordecai Richler as well as America's Norman Mailer, John Updike and John Kenneth Galbraith.
These feats are worth trumpeting but Athill, now in her 80s, chronicles her working life in an alluring, understated fashion: "All this book is, is the story of an old ex-editor who imagines that she will feel a little less dead if a few people read it."
'Stet: an editor's life' does a lot more than that. It gives writers and readers a fresh insight into the challenges of publishing as well as the trade's peaks and troughs throughout the latter half of the 20th century, before the conglomerates dominated.
Athill founded with Andre Deutsch a publishing house in the early 1950s which bore his name. Despite its small size and meagre means, the house and Athill's reputation gained a great deal of attention in England, not only for the calibre of writers they attracted, but their publishing approach. One of the most controversial incidents occurred early on when the publishing house was presented with an injunction against publishing Norman Mailer's first book, 'The Naked and the Dead' because of its profane language.
Athill covers this and many other anecdotes about writers and the writing life in a rich, honest manner.
'Stet' will interest writers as well as avid readers.
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By A Customer on July 17 2003
Format: Paperback
A fascinating look into old-world publishing and life in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century. I really enjoyed all of the wonderful characters and details about the editorial process. Anthill, herself, is an engaging and enjoyable character!
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Format: Paperback
Reading Stet is like taking a seminar in the art and craft of editing and then being invited to tea with the professor afterward. While reading it, I remembered that the relationships most responsible for shaping my professional life were those I enjoyed with professors who made themselves available outside of the classroom or office. I was particularly lucky over the course of college and graduate school to enjoy the company of three wise, interesting, experienced scholars who had spent what amounted to a whole lifetime in the "real world" before beginning their academic careers. That Athill's finely crafted memoir reminded me of my debt to Dr. A-, Mr. R-, and Mrs. S- is the highest recommendation I can give.
Consider this gem:
"[A]n editor must never expect thanks (sometimes they come, but them must always be seen as a bonus). We must always remember that we are only midwives - if we want praise for progeny we must give birth to our own."
Or this (she is writing about the shrinking population of critical readers):
"Of course a lot of them still read; but progressively a smaller lot, and fewer and fewer can be bothered to dig into a book that offers any resistance. Although these people may seem stupid to us, they are no stupider than we are: they just enjoy different things."
Whether you edit church bulletin or your city's daily, whether you answer phones at a small press in the hopes of moving up or you cull gems from the slush pile, don't miss Athill's attempt to prevent her experience from being erased with her passing.
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By A reader on March 16 2002
Format: Hardcover
Writing at a very young 83, Diana Athill says of her memoir, Stet, "Why am I going to write it? Not because I want to provide a history of British publishing in the second half of the twentieth century, but because I shall not be alive for much longer, and when I am gone all the experiences stored in my head will be gone too - they will be deleted with one swipe of the great eraser, and something in me squeaks 'Oh no - let at least some of it be rescued!' It seems to be an instinctive twitch rather than a rational intention, but no less compelling for that. By a long-established printer's convention, a copy editor wanting to rescue a deletion puts a row of dots under it and writes 'Stet' (let it stand) in the margin. This book is an attempt to 'Stet' some part of my experience in its original form...."
And if it hadn't been for that "instinct," some of the best published works of our time might never have seen the light of day. Athill spent 50 years in publishing, most of them at London's Andre Deutsch Limited, working with the likes of Jean Rhys, Norman Mailer, George Orwell, V.S. Naipaul, Jack Kerouac and Peggy Guggenheim.
She has some great stories; among them, the plight Orwell faced in seeking a publisher for Animal Farm, and Mailer in the same situation due to the excessive use of profanity in his manuscript of The Naked and the Dead.
And she's funny, too. Of a co-worker, she explains, "Nick edited our nonfiction - not all of it, and not fast. He was such a stickler for correctness that he often had to be mopped-up after, when his treatment of someone's prose had been over-pedantic, or when his shock at a split infinitive had diverted his attention from some error of fact.
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