(HOBAR) Open University History of Books and Reading Seminar

(HOBAR) Open University History of Books and Reading Seminar
26 March 2018, 5.30pm - 7.00pm
Room 243, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Nicola Wilson (University of Reading)

‘“Don’t know what upset Sylvia”: Book Club Judges, Editing and Censorship’

On 9 January 1931, Eric Linklater sent a telegram to the publisher Jonathan Cape explaining: ‘Don’t know what upset Sylvia’. The text in question was Linklater’s forthcoming Juan in America, at stake was the ‘delicate mind of the General Reader’. Sylvia Lynd – bookwoman, critic and forceful judge on the Book Society Ltd – had objected to reading part of Linklater’s manuscript. It wouldn’t make the cut as a Book Society Choice until the offending passage was removed. The editorial impact of interwar book-of-the-month club judges who were reading new works in proof form, pre-publication (unlike the judges of literary prizes like the Femina Vie Heureuse or cheap reprint series including the Book Guild or Foyle’s Book Club) is not well known. Drawing upon case studies in my new book, Books by Mail: The Book Society 1929-69, this paper explores the expansive editorial role of book club selection committees and what their reading, reviewing, and taste-making involved.
Nicola Wilson has broad research interests in twentieth-century literature and print culture, and in working-class writing. Her first book was Home in British Working-Class Fiction (2015) and she written book chapters and articles on publishers' and digital archives, libraries and book distribution, colonial editions, literary censorship, twentieth-century reading patterns, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press. Her current book project, Books by Mail: The Book Society 1929-69 was funded by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. Her latest book, the co-authored Scholarly Adventures in Digital Humanities: Making the Modernist Archives Publishing Project, is part of Palgrave’s New Directions in Book History series.  


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