For the Friends of Paul: The publishing lunch
Sunday, 1 March 2015
From Marianne: After the little video went up on Friday, there was a great surge of extra pledges for The Book of Wag, and we're now 74% funded. The end is in sight! To raise a glass to you all, as Paul would surely have done, here is an extract from Paul's piece about the thing he was so well known for: lunch. It was published in The Author, the magazine of the Society of Authors, in the summer 2004 issue.
The Publishing Lunch. Paul Sidey, Editorial Director at Hutchinson, maintains a publishing tradition
I had lunch with Jeffrey Bernard four times. But he only turned up twice. And then, very late.
He was under contract for a book about Soho, but, of course, everything that Jeffrey wrote was about himself. He had a ruined beauty that was immensely attractive to both men and women and he could tell the most intoxicating stories.
He liked Greek food and ate heartily for a man whose consuming passion was vodka with a touch of lime and soda, accompanied by a chain of cigarettes.
'I know I'm a shit, Paul,' he said,' but I'm going to write this book.'
'Great,' I said. 'I don't mind how you do it. If you want to send me 800-word chunks like you do for the Spectator, that's fine.'
He nodded purposefully. 'I'm going to lock myself in my room and finish this bloody book.'
I never heard from him again.
I learnt about lunch on my first day in publishing. I had just joined Penguin as something called Editorial Programme Controller. It paid 1,200 pounds a year. I was a sort of middleman between the commissining editors, the copy editors and Production. I arrived in Harmondsworth, right by Heathrow airport, on a hot day in June, had a long lesson of proofs and proofreaders, and was invited to lunch by the Production Director and his Deputy.
We went to a neighbouring pub. I bought the first round, and turned to say 'Cheers' to my new colleagues. At which point, they banged down their empty glasses on the bar.
I got back to the office around 3.45, feeling sheepish and a bit pissed. In the airless long room where the copy editors toiled, the temperature had risen into the 80s. Everyone was asleep, some dribbling at their desks, others lying underneath in the shade.
That day, I learnt my first great lesson in publishing. Keep in with Production, and don't hurry back from lunch.
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