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These days, the Arts Council contributes a certain amount; but Wilmers is the majority shareholder.This arrangement confers a rare independence on the publication, and considerable editorial freedom for its editor.The journal – or ‘‘paper’’, as its editor Mary-Kay Wilmers refers to it – counts among its contributors Alan Bennett, Hilary Mantel, Iain Sinclair and Andrew O’Hagan.There are closely argued essays, sometimes running to many thousands of words.I think that’s a healthy debate to have and I don’t see why it can’t be had.If we were writing something similar about Peru, people wouldn’t say you were anti-Peruvian.’’ Wilmers has been editor since 1992.Though one associate suggests that she does get invited, but airily drops the invitations in the bin.
In terms of austere literary seriousness, there is currently little to match the London Review of Books. The occasion is being marked with its entire archive going free to subscribers online.
In any case, Wilmers wears the editorial crown so naturally that how she came by it is academic. No matter how excellent and nurturing the atmosphere of the office, too much exuberance, it seems, is discouraged.
One former employee recalls how he became so friendly with a colleague at the next-door desk that they were, subtly, moved apart under the guise of a reorganisation.
At this time of year – the bookshop shelves twinkling with gold-embossed celebrity memoirs – it’s easy to feel a chill of despair.
You might imagine Orwell or Leavis walking through Borders, their brows knitted with horror.