Author Topic: People we have admired  (Read 1439 times)


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People we have admired
« on: January 28, 2009, 08:08:54 PM »
Diana Athill

I went looking for news of Diana today because I suspected that the death of one of her favourite authors would hit her hard -- she was John Updike's English publisher. She is 91 now, and has become a noted memoirist since she retired twenty years ago, although she started that sideline years before -- when I first met her in 1970, she had already published the first of her memoirs, Instead of a Letter, not that I knew, being a very green Canadian kid.

So now I'm reading that she has written yet another brilliant memoir, about aging and dying, and won a major literary award for it last year -- at the age of 90. And teh queen finally decided to give her an OBE!

Look at that photograph. Isn't she magnificent? She didn't look so different forty years ago -- I would know Diana anywhere.

If you're at all curious about her, the book to start off with would be Stet (2000), which is her tell-all book about her career working with Andre Deutsch and editing a long line of the postwar greats. The chapter on Mordecai Richler will make you smile and feel happy; the chapter on V.S. Naipaul will ... teach you a lot about V.S. Naipaul. Her other memoirs are more about growing up nearly a century ago in a particular kind of England, and then living through all that has followed.

My friend Jan (also an editor/publisher) and I sent off a pair of letters together to Diana when Stet was published, and she sent back the most hilarious replies to each of us. For one thing, Jan had had to confess that she'd put the letter I gave her to forward with her own into an inbox and then let it sink there for months until she found it and remembered what we were doing ... Diana, who was famous for losing things or just not paying attention to bothersome stuff, thought that was very funny ...

Anyway, it just really makes me feel great to look at her. I must write to her again.


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