EDITORIAL

What the terrified author needs: a master editor who is his friend

Peter C. Newman March 29 1982
EDITORIAL

What the terrified author needs: a master editor who is his friend

Peter C. Newman March 29 1982

What the terrified author needs: a master editor who is his friend

EDITORIAL

Peter C. Newman

At the height of last autumn’s publishing season, when bookstores in Western Canada started running out of copies of my second volume of The Canadian Establishment, Jack McClelland reacted in typical style. Instead of loading the boxes of books aboard a train or cargo aircraft, he hired half a dozen trucks and dressed up all their drivers in rented tuxedos. I was never quite certain what the ultimate purpose of this exercise was meant to be, since no one except McClelland himself—who waved off the convoy with exaggerated formality and a dash of bravura ges' tures—paid the slightest attention to the strange caravan snaking its way across country.

It was vintage McClelland, and I was reminded of this small incident last week when it was announced that, after 29 years at the operating helm of his publishing house, McClelland is assuming less onerous duties as chairman of the board (page 65). It is a pleasure to use the occasion of this change in his status to I pay tribute to my friend and publisher, a man who almost single-handedly Canadianized our book industry and gave the country its first indigenous popular literature in the process.

His publicity ploys and promotion gimmicks have gilded the McClelland legend, such as his annual skating on the rink in front of Toronto City Hall, where he

hands out free Canadian paperbacks to anyone who confesses that reading is his or her pleasure.

But those of us who are his authors, and we number half a thousand strong, Jack McClelland has been very much more than a good promoter and a great publisher. He is, above all, a sensitive and shrewd editor, spotting the weaknesses in a sentence, paragraph, page or book, writing casual fix-notes that magically resolve literary blocks. More than that, he is what all authors need when facing the terror of blank pages and blanker minds: an understanding friend who appreciates the essential loneliness of our craft. He will do anything for his authors, not excluding the arrangement of abortions or bail.

A surprisingly modest individual (and closet war hero as commanding officer of a motor torpedo boat), McClelland is an irreplaceable and irrepressible natural resource.

But at times his sense of the ridiculous gets away from him. When a certain lady, whose chauffeur’s uniform I had described as matching the bottom of, her swimming pool, took my words to the Supreme Court of Ontario, McClelland did not take kindly to her valid lawsuit. It was only with great difficulty that our lawyer convinced him not to appear in the judge’s august chambers dressed in a white toga, prepared to bear witness that its color matched the bottom of his Jacuzzi. Now, that's a loyal publisher.