Instead of a Book, By Diana Athill


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The Independent Culture

Though this tranche of letters from the great literateuse were addressed to the American poet Edward Hill, we can all earwig with pleasure about Athill's meeting with the ancient don John Sparrow ("I realised I was a human sacrifice") and feeling "horrified" about dinner next to Salman Rushdie ("I've never been able to read him").

For a veteran editor, Athill has a tenuous grasp of royalties. Expecting £2,000 for a book, she is puzzled to receive £8,000.

A warning for the squeamish: the book contains much graphic detail about the ailments of old age.