Nicholas Lezard’s paperback review column in the Saturday edition of the Guardian is always worth reading, for his knowledge, his love of the craft of writing, and also his generosity towards the authors he reviews. He also has the gift of making you interested, at least for the duration, in books you might not even pick up in a bookshop, let alone read. This week’s column – on Gary Dexter’s Why Not Catch-21? is a good example, and typical of Lezard’s style.
It also contains a great anecdote about The Sun Also Rises:
He has a fondness, and a gift, for the right kind of anecdote: such as the list of unsuitable words from The Sun Also Rises (“shit fuck bitch piss”) that the publisher Max Perkins wrote down. “Unfortunately, the heading on the pad was ‘Things to do today’. Charles Scribner came into Perkins’s office, saw the pad, and said to him: ‘You must be exhausted.'” Dexter, always conscientious in his search for the facts, adds a footnote telling a variant anecdote: Scribner says, “If you need reminding to do those things you’re in a worse state than I thought.”
The second version, by the way, seems more complete, a better ‘story’; and has probably been improved in the retelling.