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Fifty Fifty

Carcanet's Jubilee in Letters
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Each of Carcanet's fifty years is marked by an exchange of letters between an author and the editor. The aim is to reveal a half century's history of publishing and one small, ambitious press's contribution, the nature of editing, the author/editor relationship, the conflicts, friendships and vicissitudes that occur at the nexus between the work, its creator, publisher and readers. Beginning in 1969 with the answer to a request to become a subscriber to the Press for GBP2, the book traces the development of the press as well as individual author/editor relationships. It moves from Pin Farm in Oxfordshire to a house in Cheadle Hulme to an office in the Corn Exchange, central Manchester; from the struggle to survive as an independent to benevolent acquisition by Robert Gavron, the print magnate; surviving the Manchester bombing in 1996 and the vicissitudes of the book trade in lean years. At its heart is the personal relationship of author and editor/publisher, often beginning with contributions to PN Review. Poets are central, but fiction writers, translators, biographers and critics also contribute to the Carcanet ferment and firmament. Famous writers are not necessarily the best letter-writers, as editor Robyn Marsack discovered in trawling through the Carcanet Archive in the Rylands Library. The letters here are amusing, surprising, contentious, challenging. They were handwritten, typed, and now emailed -- the changing pattern is fascinating to see. This is a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a small, ambitious press. The book celebrates the writer's, editor's and reader's risks, passions and pleasures.
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