Inspiring Lunch

Dinner set. Image y Crossett Library Bennington CollegeRunning a small publishing house can be a lonely business. On a bad day authorsdon’t want to cooperate, translators react with fury to my edits and foreign rights departments treat me as if I can’t add up. And when the Nymph decides to lie on the sofa, weepingbitter tears and threatening to pack her suitcases, then I too feel like packing my suitcases.

That’s on a bad day. But then there are other days when I realize how incredibly lucky I am in running Peirene.

A few months ago the author Sarah Lapido Manyika introduced me to her Nigerian publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusufof Cassava Republic Press. Initially I didn’t understand why. Cassava does not publish European lit and I don’t publish books by African writers. Anyway last week we met for lunch.

We talked about our books, exchanged anecdotes and then traded marketing ideas. Although Cassava and Peirene publish different books, there are many similarities in Bibi’s and my publishing approach. We both set up our own company. We choose the texts carefully and work to perfect them. We both view publishing as a cultural responsibility and not just as a money spinning venture. And she, like me, is willing if necessary to hand-sell each and every copy.

As I walked to the tube station after the lunch, loneliness had evaporated. I had met a kindred publisher. Back at headquarters, the Nymph though was still lying on the sofa with a wet flannel across her forehead. She opened one eye when I came in.

“You’re looking cheery,” she said.

“I had a fabulous lunch.” I replied

“Where did you go?”

“It was because of the company not the place.” I was no longer in the mood to share her misery. “You are a very lucky Nymph, Peirene. It’s time you understand this. We’ve set up an exciting publishing house. There will always be people who won’t appreciate it. Get up from the sofa and let’s find the ones who do.

Peirene was so taken aback by my brisk words that she set up straight away and returned to her desk. She hasn’t moaned since.

Image by Crossett Library Bennington College.

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