You said very kind things about me:
“He was one of the two or three finest publishers of his day in the UK - smart as a whip with exquisite judgment and the highest of standards, and a firm refusal to compromise when it came to good literary taste: in short he just knew good stuff. I always saw him as a man of great and as yet untapped potential and the dumb folks in UK book publishing didn’t know how to develop him, and I remember my own fervent wish that he could have been my editor and publisher - I could have done with the oversight of his great and rare talent. He's one of those guys who would probably have been superb at anything where expression was required; he could have had other and even more startling and successful careers... He stays v. well in my mind - smart, conscientious, passionate about what he was doing; I admired him v. much.”
I'd like to explain why I probably didn't fulfill my potential at the time. I knew what I wanted to do, it was just that I didn't know how to go about it. Consequently, I had to publish what I knew in my heart to be second best, and shopping around for books to publish in that depressing world of literary agents, the bottom feeders of the business wasn't something I had a desire for. (Those who can do, those who can't become literary agents. At the point where I'd resigned from Bloomsbury USA, Charlie Viney, fired from Little, Brown, UK where he'd been export sales director, phoned and asked if he could come and see me. I explained my position but said I'd be happy to arrange for him to see Karen Rinaldi, the person who was taking over from me. Charlie was 'hail fellow well met', a very funny man, well liked, but quite shallow, not the kind of man I would have countenanced employing. Karen saw him and came to see me.
She said, "That man knows close to nothing about publishing."
"I bet you he's a great success as a literary agent," I said. And he was.
Why couldn't I find the books I wanted to publish?
Here's a reason. An editor needs to believe in what he publishes, but that's quote hard with much non fiction. And to be successful, he has to publish both what is of value, certainly to him, and at the same time to ring the tills at the checkout with books that make the money. Liz Calder was an excellent example of such an editor, she published Joanna Trollope, but also Mavis Gallant. As primarily an editor of non fiction, Clearly, a lot of books lack fundamental integrity. For example, diet books. Any diet can be written on one page, i.e. eat better, eat less, exercise more, but in order to sell that at $25 in hardcover, another two hundred pages of filler is needed. Moreover, only fat people buy diet books, they won't lose any weight, but the act of buying makes them feel good, at least for a time, it's an indication of intent, a step in the right direction.
The whole of the so-called New Age is another case in point. Since the early 1990s, hundreds of millions of such books have been sold. If they contained information that was of help, where is the commensurate improvement in the behavior of those who read them?
In similar vein are books like Emotional Intelligence, a best seller for Daniel Goleman which has spawned an industry of courses, more books, DVDs, fame and personal appearances. But it's a con, as are all other books like it. Why? Imagine this, something I observed. A forty four year old CFO is lacking in emotional intelligence. He buys the book, loves it, takes the course. Two years later, a circumstance arises. How does he react? With forty six years of conditioned response, or, does he think, "Hang on a moment, I remember in that course....."? Conditionings wins out every time.
But there's another reason too, one not mentioned in the book or any of the ancillary material that goes with it. Qualities such as compassion, intuition, awareness etc, the constituent parts of what might be regarded as making up what is called emotional intelligence, don't exist in a human personality in isolation. they are there, interlinked with others in ways too difficult for mere humans to fathom. Tolstoy wrote in Resurrection, his last great novel, and one that saw him ex-communicated from the Russian Orthodox Church, something along the lines that a river runs through us. In some men, the part where generosity is found, the river is a dirty little trickle, in others, it's a raging torrent of pure, clean water. But qualities are interlinked, and a great spiritual personality explained that emotional intelligence can't exist in the absence of qualities such as innocence, wisdom, and, sorry to have to say it, purity. Let's accept this as a hypothesis for now. It's a possibility, no more, but if it's correct, then the entire basis of this genre of publishing is false.
In passing, I'd say this. When I came into publishing I worked for Corgi books, war, western, romance mostly, but one or two worthwhile authors too. That type of publishing has disappeared and the book business is mostly now about selling to the "educated minds" in our societies, but what are they educated for, what are they educated to do? Patently, most are discernibly not capable of much in the way of independent thought. When I lived in London and in my former marriage was obliged to attend ghastly dinner parties in Richmond on Thames, I used to wish I had a pound for every time I heard a regurgitated form of what had been read in the previous weekend's Observer or Sunday Times. (An artist friend, raised in the Creggan, a housing estate built on an inhospitable hillside outside the city of Derry, once observed that if you read an article in the color supplements that accompanied these papers, say on Toulouse Lautrec, if you took a pen and crossed out his name and inserted the name of another artist, say, William Blake, most of the article also held good for him too. I think that's taking it too far, but it's an amusing thought). Why don't parents, or schools, teach their children how to think? Some do, of course.
When I came across a book I liked, for example, a very good book on how to be a better parent by a psychology professor from Seattle, WA, without the understanding mentioned above, for all its qualities, it's still second rate.
I had to publish it, if not that, what else? But knowing its flaw meant that I couldn't publish it with the vim, verve and gusto that I could have brought to something I knew was of real merit.
Of course, I would have liked to publish William Blake, Keats, Shakespeare, Yeats, Rabindranath Tagore, Tolstoy etc., Seamus Heaney too, and, needless to say, Frank Delaney, but there are never too many of them around at a given time.
That being so what is it I am setting out to do now?
What is this essence, this presence, this motion, this spirit, that impels all thinking things an objects of all thought, that rolls through all things?
The last verses of Little Gidding, the final poem of the Four Quartets.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
What is this fire, and what is this rose, and how can a fire and a rose be one? Indeed, what is this source, and what is the longest river?
Clearly, what Wordsworth and and Eliot are referring to is energy, a core energy perhaps that permeates everything, and energy that some men are attuned to, that some can feel. This is heretical stuff, Wordsworth, in the midst of the Age of Enlightenment, of scientific reason, is saying that this energy is to be found in inorganic matter such as a rock. But later, of course, it was proved that a rock is full of energy, in the sub-atomic particles that constitute it, countless millions of particles in constant movement, even though the rock appears dead to us.
This "energy that rolls through all things" can be felt in music, painting, theater, dance etc, all the arts, but only if your aware of it.
And Eliot uses the metaphor, "in the stillness between two waves of the sea", waves being thoughts and the stillness the silence between them.
So when we come across this energy, we go into a state which in another culture is known as nirvichara sammadhi - which can be translated as thoughtless awareness.
it's possible to experience this state of consciousness listening to the music of Mozart, Vivaldi, watching of reading Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats or Seamus Heaney. It is there in the art of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and William Blake - I would occasionally go to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in my lunch hour and sit in the dimly lit room which houses the Leonardo cartoon. I could feel this energy strongly coming off this masterpiece and would leave half an hour later, my batteries re-charged and ready, once again, for the fray of commercial book publishing.
Similarly, i would sometimes go to what is now an apartment building in London's Soho, the site of the house in which William Blake was born, and I'd sit, as inconspicuously as I could, in silent meditation on the stone steps leading to the flats now known as William Blake house.
In these places, and many others, for example, once by myself atop the Grand Canyon, I experienced and continue to do so to this day, what the extended stillness between two waves of the sea feels like. And it's blissful.
My wife, Lioudmila Nicholeyvna, a chemical engineer by profession, when I first took her to Ireland and drove her around in a most magical few days, at one point looked at me and said, "You know, this is a most spiritual country, but the people aren't." And indeed, as we drove into Belfast on the motorway from Dublin, as we passed Milltown cemetery where many IRA men are buried, she looked up and said, "The people of this city know they are not loved."
The people of Ireland were, of course, at one time deeply spiritual but perhaps the alcohol and the externalizing of innate spirituality into organized religion, with the added powerful addition of the poisons of greed and materialism changed that.
Once, in a mood that can only be described as depression, I went off by myself, intending to visit Holy Island off the west coast of Scotland, but on a whim, went instead on a pilgrimage one May, and found myself on the summit of Tievebulliagh, a holy mountain in pre-Christian times, on which there is what remains of a Neolithic axe factory, on the Antrim plateau. I approached the summit in a dense sea mist, panting and out of breath from the steep climb, indeed negotiating my way past the scree on which if you know what to look for, discarded pieces of shards of broken arrow or axe heads can be found, was particularly difficult. I'd climb up some way, then slide back down again. Pausing to look through the scree I found nothing that could remotely be considered hand-fashioned.
But when I breasted the summit and looked up, in a moment of magic, the mist disappeared and I found myself on lush green grass, looking across the sea to the low hills of Ayrshire, in a clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight, and to the north, the headlands of the Antrim promontories, the nearest adorned in purple heather, receding through shades to grey. But I sat there, for how long I do not know, in unspeakable bliss. I was one with the earth, the sea and the sky, there was no duality, no differentiation.
I'd read that sea mists in those parts can and do disappear in an instant, and the fact that this one did took nothing away from the sheer magic of that moment or the timeless bliss that ensued, for it was the connection to the oneness and the power of it that the bliss lay within.
There's a story of how St. Patrick, who at one stage tended sheep on Mt. Slemish, not that many miles away from Tievebulliagh, tried to convert Oisín to Christianity. The story is told by Christian monks in a manner suggesting Oisín was dumb to refuse, for refuse he did saying that he had been to Tir-na-nog, the land of the ever young, which must be the present, the infinite now, the place where I had inadvertently stepped on the summit of Tievebulliagh?
"Go tell the children of Israel that I am hath sent thee unto them!" God to Moses. Exodus 3:14
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." Jesus in John 8:58
There are many references across the great religions that God is to be found in the infinite now, it always seemed to me that in a subtle way, Oisín was playing with Patrick, telling him that he already had was Patrick was offering.
However it is mainly in music that I've mostly found this power, this energy that has names in so many different cultures - rhu in Arabic, ruach in esoteric Judaism, paramchaitanya in Hinduism, and, dare I suggest it, the Holy Spirit in Christianity, that part of the Trinity rendered ambiguous deliberately? Why? Because this power is feminine, nurturing, regenerative, loving.
Once, in Japan, an old gentleman who owned a reference book company, invited me to his home for dinner. He was known to be rather stiff and reserved, but he'd overheard me say something about Irish mythology, it was a passion of his and he assumed that I knew something of it too. In this he was to be disappointed for growing up in one of the Orange heartlands, in my case, East Belfast, my youth was well-shielded from such influences. If the evening was a disappointment for him it was anything but for me, for he showed me something I've never forgotten. He asked if I'd noticed how similar our societies were. I said something to the effect that I'd rarely been in a culture so different to mine. He smiled and suggested I was missing something, that my culture had been ruled for a thousand years by a male triumvirate, the King, the army and the church, his too, the Shogun, the samurai and the monks, Zen and Shintu. No feminine, he announced, and proclaimed, "And the result was a thousand years of misery for both cultures."
One might ask, why did bot cultures find the need to suppress the feminine? A huge topic and one I will not attempt to address in detail here except to say that the feminine is not so easy to control, whereas the masculine is, through sense of duty, loyalty etc. The feminine only loves, has no allegiance to such male, artificial, illusory ideals and the kind of men who wish to control others are deeply afraid of the the feminine.
It may seem that I am in danger of drifting off topic but let me bring it back speaking of music? Music is the international language and it's not hard to understand why. We heard rhythm, the rhythm of our mother's heartbeat in the womb, and music inspires us in all kinds of ways. Military music will help persuade a band of frightened young men ti suppress their natural instincts, to stay in line, and march towards an uncertain future of serious injury or death. Music can allow us to experience romanticism, as for example in Debussy's Au Claire de la Lune. In the USA, blues and country music are full of references to men drinking their sorrows away, bemoaning that their woman has left them for another man, with never a sense of introspection, no self-examination as to what was it, in their own behavior, might have contributed to this state of affairs. These forms of music, in common with certain kinds of literature, take us away from the reality of the present, for example, the romantic novel, the rhymes on a greetings card.
But there are music forms which allow us to be, and to remain in the moment, in the pure present. Mozart and Vivaldi are two classical composers whose music does that, and one hears this phenomenon a great deal in the ragas of Indian classical music. Some Irish traditional music has it too.
So now we come to the nub. If a bad man says a good thing, for example, that there should be peace on earth, and a good man says the same good thing, are the two one and the same? Similarly, if a bad man plays a certain piece of music and a good man plays the same, are they the same? Most would say they are. (I am using shorthand here, please excuse that, you'll get what's behind what I'm trying to express).
Juan Mascaro, professor of Sanskrit and Pali at Cambridge University, was approached by George Harrison of the Beatles, and Mascaro didn't want much to do with him. Olivia Harrison said that George would meditate for hours, take cocaine, then go out and spend the night with groupies, sometimes one or two.
Ravi Shankar, in the 60s and 70s, would behave like a rock star, and the singer Norah Jones was the result of one such evening's dalliance. Is this, let's call it immorality, reflected in his playing if you compare it to the playing of someone in balance with his dharma?
This then, is an elaborate attempt to explain one of the possibly many reasons why I didn't fulfill my potential as a publisher. I couldn't find the writers, or enough of them, who could write the kind of material I wanted to publish, the kind of writing that I knew existed for it did exist in the examples I've shown and of course in other works too. The Baghavad Gita, or maybe The Catcher in the Rye immediately spring to mind, and I chose such disparate works intentionally to show the spectrum of writing in which these qualities are found.
In summary, I now want to "publish" (if that's the right word, but I can't think of a better one), works of literature, music, art, film etc which exhibits these qualities, energies, works that take us into the pure moment of present, works that uplift and inspire, works that feed our soul as much as the mind.
And I want to be the best kind of publisher, one who:
a) publishes artists not product, who commits to artists, not merely publish their wares.
a) supports, helps and encourages artists to develop to their full potential.
b) exhibits good taste, but good taste as described here, not as understood conventionally.
c) helps artists reach the largest possible audience for their work, i.e. to sell it better than anyone else.
talk about why I didn't fulfill this potential - where would I find such artists?
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 45
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'