Every two weeks for the past forty years, the London Review of Books has published between ten and twenty book reviews and essays interspersed with letters, poems and occasional short stories, growing from ‘a small paper’ – as the founding editor Karl Miller put it – into Europe’s leading literary magazine. But behind this uncharacteristically celebratory tale are countless smaller, sharper stories. After all, it takes a lot of gossip, ingenuity, argument, obsessive attention to detail, persistence, parties, panic, hustle and continuous correspondence – with towering contributors and heroic subscribers alike – to make a reasonably interesting fortnightly paper.
London Review of Books: An Incomplete History (Faber & Faber) invites readers behind the scenes for the first time, reproducing a fascinating selection of artefacts and ephemera from the paper’s archives, personal collections and forgotten filing cabinets, to bring an idiosyncratic slice of Bloomsbury’s heritage to life. Editor (and co-founder of the LRB) Mary-Kay Wilmers was joined by publisher Nicholas Spice, who joined the paper in the early 1980s, editor-at-large Andrew O’Hagan, who joined in the early 1990s, and some very special guests, including Alan Bennett, John Lanchester and Sheng Yun, for an evening of recollection and indiscretion: the opening ceremony for the LRB’s 40th birthday celebrations.
Photographs: Jon Tonks