Wednesday, 8 April 2009

An Open Letter to Robert McCrum

Matt posted a link on his blog to one of the most infamous articles about MNW, by Robert McCrum in the Observer in 2005.

Motivated by an amalgam of mischief, outraged vanity and lunchtime ennui, I sent Mr McCrum an open letter today.

Dear Robert,

The recent announcement of the longlist for the Orange Prize, and the shortlist for the Orange Award for New Writers, caused me to turn back to your 2005 article "Publishers Swap Taste for New Tricks", in which you denounced Macmillan New Writing in the strongest terms. Both Orange lists include Ann Weisgarber's debut The Personal History of Rachel DuPree; many other MNW writers have enjoyed critical and commercial success, including Eliza Graham, Brian McGilloway and L.C. Tyler. While hindsight can make fools of us all, I am sure you recognise now that your judgement was both premature and misconceived.

In the light of the rising reputation of Macmillan New Writing, I wondered if you felt the time was right for a reappraisal of your earlier sentiments, possibly in the same newspaper in which you published them.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Stretton
Justify Full
In truth my interest in his opinion is limited, but it is only right that we should all be accountable for our opinions, particularly when we are paid for them!

I really should get back to writing novels; I clearly have far too much time on my hands...

10 comments:

Eliza Graham said...

Ooh, you cheeky boy, Tim! Wonder if he'll reply?

Matt Curran said...

Ha ha! It will be interesting to see what happens next...

mags said...

Oh, I am SO keeping my fingers crossed on this one. If the snarky McCrum doesn't respond, I'll throw my copy of THE STORY OF ENGLISH out the window.

Pity, really. I enjoyed that book.

ps: Thanks, Tim. This definitely needed doing.

Tim Stretton said...

Rather anti-climactically, I got an out of office reply back. It seems he is enjoying a protracted break, which comes to an end next week.

Let's see if he deigns to respond when he returns. If he leaves it too late, MNW writers will have gobbled up even more prizes and acclaim.

Alis said...

Nice one Tim! Interesting though, that the original and infamous quote about 'the Ryanair of publishing' actually came from Hari Kunzru. Hope he's eating his words now, too.

David Isaak said...

Good luck with that. Has a literary figure ever admitted to being wrong?

Tim Stretton said...

David, I hope that when whichever of us reaches the summit first and is declaiming their Nobel Prize acceptance, Robert McCrum mumbles that he may have been a little hasty, and that anyway, if you read the article carefully it's clear he was being ironic.

Tim Stretton said...

This is not quite a retraction from The Observer's sister paper, but still:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/11/week-in-books-publishing

You have to wade through a lot of trash to get to Ann...

Frances said...

Belated congrats on an execllent letter, Tim. I do hope you receive a reply, and that you let us all see it! I was in at the beginning of MNW, and the press at the time was so bad that I nearly didn't sign the contract. Thank heavens I saw sense (thanks to lovely Mike Barnard).

Matt Curran said...

Hi Tim

This is typical. It's not so much a retraction rather than a fudging of criticism, mentioning Hari Kunzru and not Robert McCrum who was just as culpable as Kunzru, in my opinion. I very much doubt McCrum will offer a private retraction let alone a public one. If he does, then perhaps I will eat my own shorts - but you know, I think I'm going to be pretty safe...