The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale

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"Martin Parr's celebrated photographs bridge the divide between art and documentary photography. His studies of the idiosyncrasies of mass culture and consumerism around the world, his innovative imagery, and his prolific output have placed him firmly at the forefront of contemporary art. He is an avid collector and maker of photobooks. His own photobooks include The Last Resort (1986), Common Sense (iggg) and Boring Postcards (Phaidon Press, 1999), and he is the subject of the monograph Martin Parr by Val Williams (Phaidon Press, 2002)." Together with Gerry Badger he is the co-author of The Photobook: A History, a beautiful three-volume set of books that offer an engrossing, admittedly subjective survey of the "best" photography books ever published, beginning with early experiments in the medium in mid-19yh-century England and ending with "raucous Japanese photo-diaries of the 1990s." I question Martin about his collection criteria - how he arrived at "best," and how various artistic and social movements influenced the look and content of photobooks over the decades. which I posit that raising funds is a primary motivator explaining why scientists write, and Lawrence disagrees; and the two of us argue over the similarities and differences between art and science... The combatants tend to confuse human-made with nature-made art, and possibly don't even actually disagree, if we're talking big picture. Anyway, the conversation is lively, if nothing else. Throughout the episode we reference Lawrence's entertaining, readable book The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far. It "deals with the current scientific understanding of the creation of the Universe and gives a history of how scientists have formulated the Standard Model of Particle Physics.   Lawrence Krauss is a writer and an American-Canadian theoretical physicist and cosmologist who has over the years taught at Arizona State University, Yale University, and Case Western Reserve University. He founded ASU's Origins Project, now called ASU Interplanetary Initiative, to investigate fundamental questions about the universe, and served as it's director. He retired in May 2019 and is currently President of The Origins Project Foundation and host of The Origins Podcast with Lawrence Krauss.
Patrick McGahern has been operating an antiquarian bookshop in Ottawa, Canada's capital, since 1969. Today it continues to thrive under the management of Patrick's son Liam. The store specializes in Used and Rare Books, Canadiana, Americana, Arctic, Antarctic, Travel, Natural History & Voyages, Illustrated & Plate Books, Rare Books, Irish and Scottish History and Literature. I met Patrick via Zoom to celebrate his 51 years in business, to try to learn some of what he's learned over the years, and to talk about some of the more colourful bookseller colleagues in the trade, including Grant Woolmer, Jerry Sherlock and Bernard Amtmann
Roger Chartier​ was born​ in 1945 in Lyon, ​France. He is a giant in the field of ​book​ history ​and the study of ​publishing and reading.​ He teaches at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the Collège de France, and the University of Pennsylvania.​ ​ I interviewed Roger via Zoom in hopes of determining exactly why he's a giant, who's shoulders he stands on, and what he has contributed to the study of book history. Among other things we talk about Roger's book of essays The Author's Hand and the Printer's Mind; Shakespeare and Cervantes; the importance of material texts to history; forms of reading; the codex; translation; intermediaries between the reader and the writer; the commonplace technique; Roland Barthes; reader appropriation; author intention; Marshall McLuhan; D.F. McKenzie's Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts; Robert Darnton; The History of the Book in France; IMEC; maps in fiction; "Sprezzatura​;" ​and literature and the consecration of the life and manuscripts of the writer. 
Toby Faber grew up with Faber & Faber - its books and stories have played an important role in his life. He was the company's managing director for four years and remains a non-executive director and chairman of sister company Faber Music. He has written two celebrated works of non-fiction, Stradivarius and Fabergé 's Eggs. His first novel, Close to the Edge, was published by Muswell Press in 2019. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.    We met via Zoom to talk about his book Faber & Faber: The Untold Story. Toby tells the story in the words of those who founded and worked for the company during the 20th century. One of founder Geoffrey Faber (Toby's grandfather)'s great strengths, he says, was recruitment. ​Toby provides me with verbal sketches of many of those recruited to the firm, including T.S. Eliot, Morley Kennerley, Frank Morley, Richard de la Mare, Charles Monteith, Robert McCrum and others.    In addition to tracing the history of Faber we look at some of the reasons why it continues to thrive as an independent company, including the fact that, years ago, it chose to maintain control of publishing its own paperback editions of backlist titles. 
Powell's Books is a chain of bookstores located in and around Portland, Oregon. It claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Powell's 'City of Books' store is located on the edge of downtown and occupies a full city block. It covers some 68,000 square feet or 1.6 acres of retail floor space. Emily Powell is a third generation owner of the bookstore. She made headlines this past August for dumping Amazon as a sales partner. To mark "Independent Bookstore Day"  she announced that "we will no longer sell our books on Amazon’s marketplace. For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon’s business on our communities and the independent bookselling world." "The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive," she continued. "We will not participate in undermining that vitality." I talked to her recently, via Zoom, about her stand against Amazon, her storied bookstore and the reasons for its successes and longevity. 
Tiphaine Guillermou is an editor with Graphéine, a design agency with offices in Paris and Lyon.  While researching 20th century French book design - so that I'd have some books to hunt down while visiting bookstores in France - I came across a terrific article Tiphaine had written for Graphéine's blog, here. It was exactly what I was looking for - filled with all sorts of great book collecting leads. I was so impressed with the article I decided to interview Tiphaine about it. Listen as we talk about Pierre Faucheux, Robert Massin, Gallimard, Stock, Whites and Yellows, Scorpion, the French Book Club, Le Livre de Poche, Folio, Monsieur Toussaint Louverture, Cent Pages editions,David Pearson, Zulma and much more.
Andy Hunter is the founder and CEO of  He's also the publisher at Catapult, at Counterpoint and at Softskull, and, as if this isn't enough, publisher and co-creator at LitHub, and co-founder and chairman at Electric Literature.    Despite all of these responsibilities, Andy took the time to talk via Zoom about his latest venture and how to use it to help support indie bookstores, and, at the same time, stick it to Amazon. is "an online book marketplace designed to support independent bookstores."   Among other things the two of us discuss how authors, publishers, reviewers, bloggers and others in the book publishing ecosystem can sign up as affiliates and make 10% of the price of books sold on their sites (as opposed to 4.5% from Amazon); about's huge selection of books shipping directly from the wholesaler and being delivered in 2-3 days; about physically touching paper pages and petting cats in brick and mortar bookshops; about the smells and sounds and conversations and coffee that can be had in real bookstores; about revitalizing downtowns; about the magic of reading; and about helping to ensure that all of this continues to be a thing.     According to Andy, will be launching in Canada in the Spring of 2021. 
Benoit Forgeot is one of France's leading antiquarian book dealers. We met in his office, in the Odeon district of Paris to talk about what differentiates French collectors from American; French book binders; secrets; coffee; the manuscript market ( good time to buy); Paul Bonet, coffee again; business in Paris versus the provinces; the crucial knowledge that American curators impart, and much more, (includes Parisian street sounds).  
Anne-Solange Noble has been International Rights Manager at Gallimard since 1992. She was born and raised in Montreal, Canada and graduated from McGill University in Hispanic Literature. After spending two years in Mexico she went to Paris where she studied International Relations at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. In 1985 she landed a job in rights negotiations with Flammarion. Seven years later she moved to Gallimard to do the same thing, and has been there ever since.  Recently her focus has been on licensing English-language rights for Gallimard fiction and non-fiction to American and British publishers. We met at her offices in the Rive Gauche district of Paris to talk about her role, and the obstacles she's faced selling into these English markets over the past three decades. 
Lifted from Bill Samuel's website: Itinerant one-time chartered accountant who has lived in Denmark, East Africa, the Gulf (Arabian/Persian, not Texan) and the Caribbean with shorter stints in Eastern Europe and various rather nice small islands. Born in England into a family with an international outlook, an interest in people and a feeling for the cultural side of life. William Foyle, one of the greatest booksellers, and book collectors, of the twentieth century was his grandfather.     Bill inherited a passion for books and​ his life ​has largely been ​shaped by those ​he read as a child, which gave ​him a desire to see as much of this wonderful world of ours as​ he could​.   ​As for what he's done: ​more or less chronologically: auditing in London and Copenhagen, tourism stuff in Kenya, house building in Portugal, financial consultancy in the UK and the Gulf, Executive Director of an investment bank in Bahrain, Director of Tourism and Superintendent of Offshore Finance in the Turks and Caicos Islands, commercial advisor to the government of St. Helena and Vice Chairman of ​his family business, Foyles bookshop​, which he wrote about in An Accidental Bookseller,  A Personal Memoir of Foyles, and which we talk about in this episode of The Biblio File podcast​.  We met in the garden of a villa near the town of Condom, in southern France. The weather was perfect.
John Freeman is an American writer and a literary critic. He was the editor of Granta from 2009 to 2013, and is a former president of the National Book Critics Circle. His writing has appeared in more than 200 English-language publications around the world and he currently edits a series of anthologies of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry entitled Freeman's, published in partnership with Grove/Atlantic and The New School. Reason enough, I figured, to want to talk to him about the role of the editor.    His second book, a collection of his interviews with major contemporary writers titled How to Read a Novelist, was published in the U.S. in 2013 by FSG and features profiles of Margaret Atwood, John Updike, Geoff Dyer, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, and others. It's the reason I wanted to talk to him about interviewing authors (plus the fact that I've watched him skillfully question authors on stage - well on Youtube - many times).   During his time with the National Book Critics Circle, John launched a campaign to raise awareness of the cutbacks in book coverage by the U.S. national print media and to save book review sections. We talk about how this effort resulted in the establishment of Literary Hub. 
Kenneth White is the founder of Sutherland House Books. He is the former editor-in-chief of Saturday Night Magazine, the founding editor of The National Post, and the former editor and publisher of Maclean’s magazine. He was president of Rogers Publishing, Canada’s largest magazine company, and the founding president of Next Issue Canada (now Texture), in partnership with Conde Nast, Meredith, Hearst, and Time Inc. Mr. Whyte is the author of The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst (2008, Random House), In 2017, he published Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times (Knopf), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Last month he launched a suicidal assault on libraries in a 3500-word article in The Globe and Mail newspaper. In it he posits, among other things, that: there are three times as many books borrowed as bought in the United States every year, and four times as many in Canada; that libraries don't passively lend books, they compete with booksellers by advertising how much people can save by borrowing rather than buying books, and they compete among themselves to lend the most books possible; and that most public library lending is of books read for entertainment, not edification, by people who can afford to pay for books.  We talked about his article via Zoom. 
Jael Richardson is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life, a memoir exploring her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. It was adapted into a children’s book in 2016. Richardson is a book columnist and guest host on CBC’s q. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Brampton, Ontario where she founded and serves as the Artistic Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD). Her debut novel, Gutter Child, is coming out in January 2021 with HarperCollins Canada.  Jael's recent tweet about Canadian children's book publishers being racist caught my attention, and we agreed to talk about it via Zoom. During the second half of our conversation I present some of the feedback I received from Canadian publishers about the Tweet. During the first Jael talks about her memoir, life with her father, being black in Canada and the feeling of being lost.  Among her key points: diversified hiring practices are good for business, it's important for young black students to meet black authors, and  publishers should pay attention to who's making the money off the stories they choose to publish. (Please accept my apologies for the annoying keyboard tapping sounds that occur at times during the course of the conversation. No idea why they're there. Perhaps it's the Russians trying to wreak havoc with the show, who knows).
Pierre Assouline is a French writer and journalist. He was born in Casablanca, Morocco and has published several novels. He has written biographies of, among others, the legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson; Hergé, the creator of The Adventures of Tintin; Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the art dealer, and Georges Simenon, the detective novelist and creator of Inspector Maigret.  As a journalist, Assouline has worked for some of France's leading publications, including Lire and Le Nouvel Observateur. He also publishes a popular blog, “La république des livres.”   A number of his biographies have been translated into English including the one we talk about here, Gaston Gallimard, A Half Century of French Publishing (Harcourt Brace, 1988).
After graduating from university in 2005 Maylis Besserie began  teaching documentary production at the Institute of Communications and Media in Paris, and joined France Culture as a radio producer and host. In February 2020 she published her first novel, Le Tiers Temps (Gallimard). It evokes the last days of Samuel Beckett in a Parisian retirement home. The protagonist, while describing his responses to daily life in the home, also experiences a dream-like reality as he tries to recall the people and places that marked his life. On May 11, 2020 it won the Goncourt Prize for first novel. We met at what we thought would be a quiet cafe in Paris to talk about the journey Maylis has been on with her new novel.  This is the second time I've interviewed her. First time round, several years ago, we met to discuss the art of the author interview.
'Barnet Lee "Barney" Rosset, Jr. (1922 – 2012) was owner of the  Grove Press publishing house and publisher and editor-in-chief at the Evergreen Review. He led a successful legal battle to publish the uncensored version of D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, and later was the American publisher of Henry Miller's controversial novel Tropic of Cancer. The right to publish and distribute Miller's novel in the United States was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1964, in a landmark ruling for free speech and the First Amendment.' Under Rosset  Grove introduced American readers to European avant-garde literature and theatre, publishing, among others, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Genet, and Eugène Ionesco. Most importantly, in 1954, Grove started publishing Samuel Beckett John Oakes is the co-founder and 50% owner of OR Books, and  publisher of the Evergreen Review, an online revival of the venerable counter-cultural literary magazine originally published by Grove Press under Barney Rosset whose memoir Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship OR Books published in 2017.  I talked with John about Rosset via Zoom.   
Jacques Shore is a partner in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office, a member of the firm's Advocacy Group, and past leader of the firm's Government Affairs Group.​ He has acted as lead negotiator on many business and government-related initiatives and has worked actively on behalf of the federal government of Canada and provincial governments on a broad range of legal and public policy matters​, including cultural policy.    Actively involved in the community, Jacques is a past chair of Carleton University's board of governors and its executive committee and served as a board governor for thirteen years​. In addition he served as chair of the Distinguished Council of Advisors of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. Jacques ​is ​currently​ ​the Chair of the Library Archives Canada (LAC) Foundation (April 2019 to present).​ ​He is ​also ​counsel to Amazon, providing legal, government relations, and strategic advice to the compan​y, something I stupidly failed to ask him about.    I​ did however hit him with quite a few questions about ​the ​need, ​purpose,​ mission, and plans of the new Library and Archives Canada Foundation and the people involved. 
Richard Nash is a coach, strategist, and serial entrepreneur. He led partnerships and content at the culture discovery start-up Small Demons and the new media app Byliner. Previously he ran independent publishers Soft Skull (not Skill) Press and Red Lemonade where he published Maggie Nelson, Lynne Tillman, Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen, Alain Mabanckou, and many others, for which work he was awarded the Association of American Publishers’ Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing in 2005. In 2010 the Utne Reader named him one of 50 Visionaries Changing Your World and in 2013 the Frankfurt Book Fair picked him as one of the Five Most Inspiring People in Digital Publishing. In 2017 he founded Cursor Marketing Services, a shared US publishing office for the world’s leading English-language independent publishers. As a coach, building on decades of mentorship and consulting, he now works directly with artists, writers, and entrepreneurs, helping them navigate personal and professional transitions. We met via Zoom to talk about his influential article 'What is the Business of Literature?' (Our cat Boo Bou insisted on getting her thoughts on the record as well during the first several minutes of the conversation. Apologies for the distraction). 
David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic. From 2014 through 2017, he served as chairman of the board of trustees of the leading UK center-right think tank, Policy Exchange. In 2001-2002, he served as speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush; in 2007-2008, as senior adviser to the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaigns. Frum is the author of ten books, most recently Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy (the putative topic of our conversation).  The memoir of his service in the George W. Bush administration, The Right Man, was a New York Times bestseller, as was his 2018 book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. He and his wife Danielle Crittenden Frum live in Washington DC and Wellington, Ontario, where we met lake-side, at The Drake Devonshire, buffeted by the breeze, serenaded by the surf. We talk, among other things, about Trumpocalypse (HarperCollins, 2020); Shakespeare and Byron; crocodiles and alligators; Trump, of course; marriage; how Twitter affects the writing of a book; adolescence and childhood; Chomsky and George Washington; America the Good versus America the Bad; American exceptionalism; finding the right person; and the choice between changing the world and changing yourself.   
Peter Florence is a British festival director,​​ notable for founding the Hay Festival with his​ parents, Norman​ and Rhoda Florence​. FYI t​he first festival ​was financed with winnings from a poker game. Peter​ ​was educated at Ipswich School, Jesus College, Cambridge, and the University of Paris and has an MA in Modern and Medieval Literatures. He holds honorary doctorates from ​four universities​. ​He has replicated the success of Hay in numerous cities around the world, launching similar festivals in Mantua, Segovia, the Alhambra Palace, Cartagena, Nairobi, Zacatecas, Thiruvananthapuram, Dhaka, Xalapa, Belfast and Paraty. He is the co-editor of the Oxtales and Oxtravels anthologies with Mark Ellingham of Profile Books, in partnership with Oxfam​ ​and has written for ​the​ Index on Censorship​, The Guardian​, The Telegraph​, The Spectator​ and numerous other publications.​ ​"​Florence chaired the jury of the 2019 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and controversially defied the foundation’s 1993-established rules to award the prize to two authors. Bernardine Evaristo - the first black woman to be awarded the prize - shared the prize with Margaret Atwood​." ( unfortunately, I failed to ask him about this). ​ ​He and his wife Becky Shaw have four sons. They live in Herefordshire. Peter was awarded an MBE in 2005 for services to Arts and Culture​ and​ a CBE in 2018 for services to Literature and Charity​.   We met via Zoom to talk, among other things, about Hay's recent on-line, Covid-driven 2020 event and how Peter plans to capitalize on its enormous success, about what special ingredients are required to put on good festivals and interesting sessions, about the English language, party animals, translation, what makes Peter happy, and the titles of his favourite recent reads. 
Mark Bourrie is a Canadian lawyer, blogger, journalist, author, historian, and lecturer. His work has appeared in many Canadian magazines and newspapers. In 2020, his book  Bushrunner: The Adventures of Pierre Radisson, won the final RBC Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction.    Known widely as the namesake of ships and hotel chains, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” "Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fifteen, Radisson assimilated and was adopted by a powerful family, only to escape to New York City after less than a year. After being recaptured, he defected from a raiding party to the Dutch and crossed the Atlantic to Holland—thus beginning a lifetime of seized opportunities and frustrated ambitions. His venture as an Arctic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates today, 350 years later, as North America’s oldest corporation". I talked with Mark over the phone about the genesis of his book, and about Radisson and his life with capitalism, the Mohawk, the British and the French. 
Ian Wilson was chief Librarian and Archivist of Canada from 2004 to 2009. Prior to this as National Archivist, with Roch Carrier the then National Librarian, he developed and led the process to merge the National Archives and National Library into a unified institution. "His distinguished career has included archival and information management, university teaching and government service." In addition, he has published extensively on history, archives, heritage, and information management and has lectured both in Canada and abroad.      "Born in Montreal, Quebec, he attended the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean and obtained a master's degree from Queen's University in 1974. He began his career at Queen's University Archives, later becoming Saskatchewan's Provincial Archivist and Chairman of the Saskatchewan Heritage Advisory Board. He was appointed Archivist of Ontario in 1986, a position he held until 1999." ​ He chaired the Consultative Group on Canadian Archives on behalf of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The Group's report, Canadian Archives - generally known as the "Wilson Report" - published in 1980 - has been described as "a milestone in the history of archival development in Canada."​ He is currently a consultant. ​   I met with Ian at his home in Ottawa to talk about how the merger between Library and Archives is going, about Canada's great Dominion Archivist Arthur Doughty and Canada and its Provinces his monumental, under-appreciated nation-building publishing project, and about the essential role Library and Archives Canada plays, or doesn't play, in cultivating a distinctive national Canadian identity.  
Larry Grobel is the author of more than 25 books - including Conversations with Capote (which received a PEN Special Achievement award), and Talking with Michener. He has been a freelance writer for more than 40 years, having written for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Movieline and many other publications. He is also a renowned interviewer, having conducted and written numerous iconic Playboy magazine interviews over the years. The magazine called him “the interviewer’s interviewer” after his interview with Marlon Brando for its 25th anniversary issue.  We met via Zoom to talk about his superb book The Art of the Interview (2004) and its companion volume Endangered Species: Writers Talk about their Craft, their Visions, their Lives. Its foreword calls Larry "prepared, adaptable, and graced with the intelligence needed to shoot the breeze and elicit intriguing responses, gossip and wisdom.  Joyce Carol Oates has called him “the Mozart of interviewers” and J.P. Donleavy has called him “the most intelligent interviewer in the United States.”  He currently teaches seminars on The Art of the Interview at UCLA.   
Jonathan Rose is the William R. Kenan Professor of History at Drew University. His fields of study are British history, intellectual history and the history of the book. He was the founding president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, and has served as the president of the Northeast Victorian Studies Association. His book, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, won the Jacques Barzun Prize , the Longman History Book of the Year Prize and the British Council Prize. Other books include The Literary Churchill, A Companion to the History of the Book, and British Literary Publishing Houses 1820-1965. His most recent work is as co-editor with Mary Hammond, of the four volume Edinburgh History of Reading.  Jonathan is co-editor of Book History, which won the Council of Editors of Learned Journals award for the Best New Journal of 1999.  We met via Zoom to talk about his book Reader's Liberation, a fascinating narrative history of independent skeptical reading, from antiquity to present. Topics covered include defending the humanities, free expression and leaky censorship, the importance of reader reception, reading and revolution, making the Bible accessible in everyday English, the First Amendment, Great Books programs and common conversation, the disaster of 'Common Core,' Louise Rosenblatt, Clifton Fadiman and The Book of the Month Club. the positive influence of Oprah Winfrey, the drive toward literacy in Black America, Hugh Hefner and the Playboy interviews, objective versus partisan media, "native" advertising and credibility, docile students and cancel culture. 
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Podcast Details

Created by
Nigel Beale
Podcast Status
Nov 30th, 2020
Latest Episode
Nov 30th, 2020
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
42 minutes

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