Friday 30 March 2007


This morning brings with it a nice little review of Kokoro in the Independent:

'Natsume Soseki, one of Japan's leading novelists, lived in Camberwell between 1900 and 1902. But since his death at the age of 49, only a dozen or so of his novels have appeared in English. His masterpiece, Kokoro, once more sees the light of day with a limpid new translation by Edwin McClellen. In the story of an intense friendship between a young student and a man he calls Sensei, Soseki writes about changing Japanese attitudes to honour, love and duty. The circumstances of Sensei's mysterious life only become apparent at the moment of his death, in a brilliant study of self-hatred and guilt.'

Anyone interested in in Soseki's stay in Camberwell might like to take a look at The Tower of London, his brilliant account of said time in London:

Wednesday 28 March 2007

Waterstones Event: Ken Russell on the Great Composers

On the 15th of this month, we were delighted to be hosting, with Waterstones' Gower St, the legendary Ken Russell in person. Ken was talking about his two new books published by us, comprising four novellas in total: Elgar: The Erotic Variations; Delius: A Moment With Venus; Beethoven Confidential and Brahms Gets Laid. Our thanks must go, first of all, to Waterstones for their events management skills but also to Ken for a memorable evening indeed.

In fact, Ken had already turned in a barnstorming performance that afternoon, appearing on the Robert Elms show on BBC London. The redoubtable Mr Elms is a fluent, confident performer on the radio and if he wasn't overawed, he certainly met his match in Ken - or so Ken said later on that evening. Their hilarious, good-humoured banter ranged over his films, love of music, Celebrity Big Brother (he called Jade and her mother 'the terrorists') and, of course, the books, where Ken showed not only the fun that he likes to have with these august figures, but his deep knowledge of and abiding love of their music.

And it was more of the same at Waterstones' where the assembled crowd included Loving Mephistopheles author Miranda Miller and two people who have kindly provided us with brilliantly-written and illuminating forewords for titles in our Modern Classics series: Graham Coxon (Narcissus and Goldmund) and Christopher Priest (Ice). Thanks also to all those gathered there on the evening. This is not to say, however, that Ken has finished his unique PR drive - look out for mooted appearances on Classic FM and The Wright Stuff. And, of course, look out for the books themselves which are hitting the bookshops now.

Muses as Heroes

Not another book on Oscar Wilde then..not Wilde but the beautiful Bosie is the star of the show this time. Up until now cast as that demon personified in Wildes life, the muse and destroyer, who with his careless actions brought ruin and betrayal. Caspar Wintermans has recreated Bosie in a more complex and fairer light, fleshing out the Jude Law portrayal of a flouncing, pouting spoilt boy and instead championing his devotion to Wilde, the societies he was part of, the impressions he made on others around him, his passions and loyalties. This biography fits nicely with the ever-growing recent interest in biographiess of muses, wives, lovers, the people surrounding and supporting the 'geniuses' and the extroverts about whom we already know so much.
Lord Alfred Douglas, a lot younger than Wilde, a lot more frivolous perhaps, was not only the inspiration behind some of Wildes thoughts and creations but also an inspired poet himself, the composite of which is contained, with notes, in this biography. The whole fascinating literary and artistic scene, the world in which Bosie and Wilde circulated and flourished is lovingly courted and chronicled by Wintermans, who spent 18 years researching and writing the book.
The launch and a chance to meet this expert on all things Wilde and Bosie-ish commences at 6.30 tomorrow at The Phoenix Arts Club, Charing Cross come along dears, sip a glass of wine, lounge in a corner and quote Wilde, hey, even buy a book. Why? As Oscar says

I suppose society is wonderfully delightful. To be in it is merely a bore. But to be out of it is simply a tragedy

Grand. We shall see you there then, we remain your most humble book-servants,
All at Peter Owen Publishers

Monday 26 March 2007

Probably a little big for the tube

and certainly your pocket is Alfred Douglas: A Poet's Life and Finest Work - an entire year later than advertised. No-one's fault (except perhaps an over optimistic sales crew , ahem) just if you want something done properly . . . etc. But it's in now and your first chance to see the book and meet the author (A man who signs himself 'Believe me, yours truly) will be on the 29th March at the Phoenix Arts Club from seven O'clock or so.

so five P.O.P. books to read on the tube:

Gold, - to make you laugh

Year of the Hare - also with the laughter - it's good for you

Lady and the Little Fox Fur, to make you laugh nervously dwindling into a rictus and eventually a little cry

The Ice Palace - to make you cry

The Journey to the East - Because if I see another person reading Paulo Coelho I'm going to . . .

On a sunny day and delayed tube

BNO1 is moved to ask why so many people read Jodi Picoult on the train? Three different Picoult books on the same carriage. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just wondering what the secret to getting one's books read on the tube is? I always read the book that we've most recently published very prominently, but so far no-one has stopped me: 'excuse me but what is that you're reading?' they would say, and I'd turn and smile and . . . well, that's how it goes.

An Argentinian writer, Olivero Girondo, once wrote a book 'poems to be read on the tram' , perhaps it's time to compile a list of P.O.P. books to be read on the tube. This ties in rather well with a debate currently bouncing around in the office and indeed between us and friendly booksellers (all booksellers are, of course, friendly) - what size in which to publish our fiction? Now we've traditionally been a hardback publisher, we'd publish the hardback and then give the paperback rights to a paperback publisher. Of course, those days are over and since we moved into publishing primarily paperbacks we've tended to publish original fiction in a large paperback format. Recently it's been pointed out to us that this may not be the best way to go, for a reader's point of view a large paperback WILL NOT FIT INTO YOUR POCKET and from a bookselling point of view WON'T FIT ON A TABLE or occasionally, a shelf. So we're looking at doing all new fiction in a smaller size. But then we worry that they're less likely to be reviewed. The results of the debate will become clear fairly soon.

Friday 23 March 2007


The V&A, the Tate Modern, Saatchi gallery everyone is going surrealism nuts this summer. Something that we've been for years. BNO1 went to the Tate Modern the other day and realized that his boss had known personally two of the painters exhibited in the first room he entered ; Salavdor Dalí is of course well known and Peter's famous trip to buy the rights to his book well documented but I wonder how many people know of the second, Ithell Colqhoun? Her painting Scylla now currently hangs on the left hand wall of the first room of the Poetry and Dream collection on the third floor, somewhere at the bottom. Her book, The Goose of Hermogenes, the result I believe of a chance encounter with Peter at the French House in Soho is wonderful and weird, should have been filmed by Louis Bunuel and should still be filmed by David Lynch. Maybe I'll write a letter.

Also of interest to those of a suurealist nature is all writing by Blaise Cendrars, about whom I think it's time to do an author page, Hebdemeros by Giorgio de Chirico currently OP, and if you want to wander in to the next room in the Tate Modern, My Life by Marc Chagall

Thursday 22 March 2007

Lack of imagination?

Apologies for the past few days silence from the blog, bloggers have been away or very busy.

Catching up with some news; another excellent and thoughtful review from the dovegreyreader, this time for loving Mephistopheles:

A book that heartily disproves the theory that female writers today are lacking in imagination. If you have a read of this article in the Independent

then go out and buy Loving Mephistopheles, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Monday 19 March 2007

Willie Donaldson

After the TLS, nothing much on the review front this weekend - except for a large number of mentions of a previous book of ours in the epically named Willie Donaldson bio:
You Cannot Live As I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This: The Thoroughly Disgraceful Life & Times of Willie Donaldson by Terence Blacker. The book talks about P.O.P. a little and especially one of our staff - described as having 'the patience of a saint'. And you know what? he does. Well done that man.

The book mentioned is From Winchester to This and was Donaldson's own memoir. It's a great, funny and rather sad read by all accounts. Anyone who likes the biog should take a look:

(Amazon again - before this website's time)

Apologies to the Grumpy Old Bookman, apparently he has been inadvertently defamed over the past month or so ( missed out the 'book' part)

We did of course have our Ken Russell launch on Thursday night, more on that later.

Thursday 15 March 2007

Loud whooping in the office . . .

from BNO1 as there is another review of Bless 'em All, this time from Johnathan Keates in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS to you):

'Allen Saddler’s Bless ’Em All is subtitled A Blitz novel. Its emphasis is on the eternally absorbing paradox, in Second World War London, of ordinary lives pursuing their respective courses against a background of communal loss and annihilation. Booksellers Bernard and Maurice Green; their invoice clerk Rosa Tcherny, “a bit of all right”; perky Jimmy
the office boy, with his taste for pork-dripping and the Gem magazine; Bunty, on the game up West; and Gloria, the resting actress whose dramatic quietus owes nothing to the Luftwaffe: none of them is conspicuous for courage or glamour. What matters to them all is being “free to act natural”, as Jimmy puts it, even if, like the hotel porter Bert Penrose, they should end up minus a spouse and a leg.

Allen Saddler carefully avoids any hint of “London can take it” Cockney-sparrer sentimentality. The baldness of his characters’ conversational exchanges is as convincing as the unemotional narrative, pared down to the sinew of an existence suddenly robbed of anything like certainty or expectation: “Edie kept coming, day after day, but she didn’t bring any joy”. Even while it saves them, the mood of resignation which forms an essential ingredient of such lives has its own dangerous powers of

Tuesday 13 March 2007

Peter Haining

Amidst the great and the good of the publishing world, there are none so important nor as unassuming as those who make their living by producing good books for good publishers. These as distinct from writers, although they may indeed be talented writers, because rather than starting out from their own peculiar interests, they start out looking for a book that a publisher will want to sell, and that readers will want to read.

For very many years now we have had one of the best of these noble souls as a regular collaborator - Peter Haining. His speciality is fascinating collections of short prose - either little known pieces by famous writers or collections based around a theme. So we get:

Hunted Down: Detective Fiction by Charles Dickens
(The Web page seems to have disappeared for this one, back up soon but in the meantime here's the amazon page)

The Ghost Feeler and The Demanding Dead by Edith Wharton

Supernatural Tales by Vernon Lee

Sensation Stories by Wilkie Collins

The Adventures of Hunter Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard


The Hashish Club volumes one and two - various authors write about drugs
(Sadly out of print)

A Thousand Afternoons – An anthology on bullfighting


Lassie - the extraordinary story of Eric Knight and the world's favourite dog
(Bizarrely this one has disappeared too.)

A Cat compendium, – the world of Louis Wain

More often than not with an excellent introduction or more by the man himself. I imagine him sitting in a remote cottage somewhere with wild hair, a comfortable armchair, obscure but comprehensive encyclopedia and a gigantic blackboard marked 'ideas!'

Monday 12 March 2007

Another Bless 'em All review

Another Allen Saddler review to add to the collection. This time from the Western Morning News:

‘This riotous wartime tale of prostitution, romance, murder and the old-fashioned business of selling books comes from a Devon author with excellent credentials in journalism and writing for radio and television. In a portrait of a cross-section of London society during the Blitz, revealing that they were not heroic in the conventional sense and that most of them regarded the bombing as an intrusion, a nuisance to be endured. With its wealth of quirky characters, this highly entertaining novel exposes the misplaced optimism, naked opportunism and matrimonial misdemeanours in a comic tour de force of considerable verve, perceptiveness and period authority.’

We're still waiting on some more, but so far I believe that no-one had a bad word to say and many many good ones. Congrats must go to Allen.

Friday 9 March 2007

A Bookseller disclaimer

The Bookseller (A trade weekly) mentions us twice this week - one all about our new fiction programme the other about Blogger No. 1 (BNO1)'s current reading habits.

The first piece, although good and long and accurate quotes BNO1 as saying that the new fiction imprint will be called POP fiction. It won't and it was BNO1's mistake to have mentioned such a silly name at all. Apologies for any confusion caused.

Also BNO1's name has again been confused. So far in his short publishing career he has been called 'Miss.', 'Peter Owen' and now apparently been inducted into the Owen family.

Thursday 8 March 2007

International Woman's Day

So both women and books have been reduced to Clinton's status.

Top ten P.O.P. in print books written by women:

1. Two Serious Ladies, Jane Bowles

2.Lady and the Little Fox Fur, Violette Leduc

3. Ladders to Fire/Children of the Albatross/Four chambered heart, Anais Nin

4. Alberta trilogy, Cora Sandel

5. The Butcher's Wife, Li Ang

6. Reteat From Love/Duo et Le Toutonier, Colette

7. In The Shadow of Islam, Isabelle Eberhardt

8. Ice/Asylum Piece/The Parson, Anna Kavan

9. Paris France/ Look At Me Now and Here I Am, Gertrude Stein

10. Loving Mephistopheles, Miranda Miller

We've also published Shere Hite, Monique Wittig, Uno Chiyo, Edith Wharton, Johanna Sinisalo, Anita Desai . . .

Ken Russell's P.A.

Publishing, as may have come across in these posts, is a fairly schizophrenic tranquil/harassed kind of business. At P.O.P. when one first comes in to the company they tend to be surprised at how quiet things seem. Certainly appeared so for me (Blogger no.1 in case you're wondering) right up until the first evening when I got home exhausted - but not entirely sure why. After a bit of time here it becomes apparent that the dichotomy springs from the fact that the hard work is most often self generated. 'tis you personally who decides that they must do that extra bit of editing, designing, laying out, phoning, emailing reading reading reading etc. whereas in most jobs the hard stuff is a reaction to others - got to get a report in on time, deal with this complaint, put the doll's head on the doll on the conveyer belt etc.

But over the last few days it's been rather different: with the imminence of the forthcoming books by Ken Russell it's all been stuff from outside - 'can he do this interview, that one, well if that program is going to do it then we couldn't possibly, won't he do ours instead? (How is that our problem?). when are the books coming out? Can you send proofs? Yes I'm coming to the party when is it? how do i get there? You will remember to send review copies? NO MAIL WON'T DO, I NEED TO KNOW TODAY!!'

And then there's Ken himself phoning up half an hour before the books go to print saying 'I just found two important errors' . . . nick of time doesn't do it justice.

Still, we're ecstatic that so many people are interested in Ken - he truly deserves the recognition.

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Hasta la Revolucion Siempre

Gabriel Garcia Marquez turned 80 yesterday - funny to think he's almost exactly the same age as Peter. He chose to spend it in Cuba (Garcia Marquez, not Peter), which seems a very sensible place to spend one's birthday. Anyway, Feliz Cumpleaños to one of the truly great modern writers.

It's funny, we published Miguel Angel Asturias just before he won the Nobel Prize (Peter's still upset about the day Asturias won, something to do with not being offered any champagne), they are writers of comparable quality and subject matter but one reprints in millions whilst one hasn't made nearly as much of an impact. It'll be fun trying to change that . . .

Looking back through the mists it seems that we also published a book about the Cuban revolution written by a disgruntled ex Cuban ambassador to Britain. He wasn't in favour.

Then there's a book called 'What's Left?' by a fellow named David Powell. It seems that Nick Cohen stole our pun.

More oddities from the past:

'You Can Upholster!' from the seventies, exclamation mark and all.

'Beer is Best' I think this was by a Theakston or someone.

'A Dictionary of Satanism'

'A Dictionary of Graphology' various editions of that one.

Tuesday 6 March 2007

Michael Moorcock

G. Peter Winnington (Author of Vast Alchemies, a biography of Mervyn Peake and editor of Mervyn Peake: The Man and his Art)
writes to me this morning:

'We have a staunch supporter in Mike Moorcock: he wrote recently

'I was in a bookshop a couple of days ago and the assistant told me he
was reading /Vast Alchemies/. I told him to read no other book; that
yours was the only one worth reading. He said how he was enjoying it.

Why don't you print a short letter from me [in Peake Studies]
suggesting that all readers ask their public libraries to order /MP
Man and Art/ ? That would be a start. /You /can't suggest it, of
course, but /I/ could.''

A fine idea that might be applied more widely?

Monday 5 March 2007

Calming down

Apologies for the bile in the previous post. Blogger no.2 just had a rant about music journalists. It must be a Monday thing.

If you'd like to judge for yourselves the page for In the Shadow of Islam is

I've calmed myself down by beginning a pet project of mine - making our website more author focussed. I've created author pages for Tarjei Vesaas, Anna Kavan and Anais Nin:

Which I hope will eventually become link based resources for fans of many of our fantastic authors. Annoyingly I could find very little in English for Tarjei Vesaas on the internet. If anyone can find anything - biogs, appreciations, essays etc. I'd be much obliged.

Also you can now see and hear Miranda Miller talking about Loving Mephistopheles on You Tube at this address:

Something that we will be doing with more authors I hope.

And finally, I got a very nice phone call from the publicist at the excellent quarterly journal Slightly Foxed - a publication to which everyone should be subscribed.

In the shadow of apathy?

A great previous post by blogger number 3 (!) a recent but temporary addition to our staff from Shakespeare and Company Paris. Isabelle Eberhardt, the writer she mentions has been on our list a while. A couple of years ago the people at P.O.P. added her first volume, In the Shadow of Islam, to our Modern Classics series fully intending to bring out the next two volumes in the trilogy a few months down the line after the obvious success of the first. It had everything: a great piece of writing (which should be all that matters) AND one that ticked all the boxes imaginable for those who like their boxes ticked, very independent woman, clash between Islam and the West, love, travel, there was even a TV documentary starring a journalist following in Eberhardt's footsteps. And? nothing, nope, nada or as Eberhardt would have said; 'rien'. Those that like our books ( < enough) stocked it, those that don't seem to (> > > many) didn't. We're still struggling to bring out the sequel. There are far far too many great and importantauthors in the same leaky boat.

A comment in the Bookseller two weeks ago by an editor being interviewed for her editorial success in bringing out the Peter Kay autobiography.

'Books are important, but not that important. It sounds quite wanky to say that, but it keeps you in check'

It WOULD be difficult not to get 'out of check' musing on the importance of Peter Kay's middle aged ramblings. Or the thoughts of Chantelle. For which said editor was also responsible.

Or take the person who decides what books go on Richard and Judy (For which a publisher must commit to spending thousands pounds even to be considered) who says that she 'hates the word literary' it 'puts people off' apparently.

I saw the best minds of my generation etc.

Friday 2 March 2007

Isabelle Eberhardt

"For those who know the value of and exquisite taste of solitary freedom (for one is only free when alone), the act of leaving is the bravest and most beautiful of all."

“Last year I left this place to the gusts of winter” The opening to Eberhardts first volume of autobiographical writings ‘In the Shadow of Islam’.
Isabelle Eberhardt, after narrowly escaping assasination and having been banished from French Algeria and imprisoned several times, lived only to the fragile age of 27. Defeated finally in 1904 by Malaria and swept away in a terrible flood she was found surrounded by the muddy pages of her manuscript. Pieced together by an anarchist editor friend, her remaining works were collected into 3 volumes of passionate poetical travel writing. Winding, desert, travellers tales of passion and nihilism. Rebel, adventurer, kif-smoking Isabelle travelled under the firm belief that everything that happened happened for a reason and that her life was dependent on chance. She was and is a true feminist hero, a radical of her time; “ women cannot understand me,” she opines “ they see me as a freak”. Dressing as a man, speaking many languages and riding horses from the encouragements of her father she was able to travel freely and wildly and where chance took her. She was known to hang out with local young vagabonds, wrestling with soldiers in the barracks or found sleeping in the local kif-joints.
Her writing is sensual and descriptive in her search for dirt, freedom, expression and moments of glorious sensation, of sunlight, food, love, religious musings and the people and places she visited are all wound together.
Ah Isabelle, a new heroine then? Time to seek her out…

Blogger no. 3

Wonderful web reviewers

Another thoughtful and beautifully written review from the Dove Grey Reader, this time on Kokoro:

This even though she missed our launch - we'll have to see what we can cook up in Devon!

And a very amusing column on our loving mephs launch from Duncan Fallowell

Sociopaths? Nous?

Frightening adverts

The Bookseller magazine carries two dark boxes in its classified section this week:

CALDER BOOKSHOP seeks successor

CALDER PUBLISHING seeks successor

Scary stuff.

The Guardian mentions our forthcoming Ken Russells in one of its gossip columns today:

'Ken Russell has written a BOGOF book. The veteran film director always had a pretty cavalier approach to mere facts in his films, and has now written waht he calls 'novel biographies' of the composers Edward Elgar and Frederick Delius. And best of all, Elgar: The Erotic Variations and Delius: A Moment with Venus, come bound together as one chunky volume: 'Two Novels in one book!' as the publisher chirps.'

The problem with attempting irony is that you're never sure who is being it when. Also no mention of us and no mention of the other book - Maev Kennedy (who wrote the article) might have said 'a BOGOF of BOGOFs from Ken Russell - famous of course for Quadrophenia'

I'm not sure that makes sense.

Thursday 1 March 2007

Every day is a book day

So books have been relegated to Clintons status have they?

Ten P.O.P. books that no one should be without:

1. The Ice Palace, Tarjei Vesaas

2. Silence/Scandal Shusaku Endo (I prefer the latter, everyone else the former)

3. Narcissus and Goldmund, Hermann Hesse

4. Ice, Anna Kavan

5. Two Serious Ladies, Jane Bowles

6. Three Cornered World, Natsume Soseki

7. Secret Protocols, Peter Vansittart

8. Year of the Hare, Arto Paasilinna

9. The Man Who Planted Trees, Jean Giono

10. Confessions of a Mask, Yukio Mishima