March 2, 2005
The return of McCrum . . .
by Dennis Johnson
Before he was literary editor of The Observer, Robert McCrum was a book editor at Faber & Faber until he suffered a stroke. In an interview with Robert Birnbaum for The Morning News, McCrum discusses his recovery, how he ended up at The Observer, and his recent biography of P. G. Wodehouse. Says McCrum, “about a year after I had the illness I went back to my job [editor in chief] at Faber & Faber and I was very feeble and really not up to the job, but I was struggling along. And one day I was having lunch with Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, which owns the Observer, and he just leaned across the table and said, ‘Would you like to become the literary editor?. . . . And so, after a day or two of thought, I said yes. . . I had had this huge cataclysm and so it was time to do something different. And this seemed like a challenge, as indeed it was. And on the Observer, in an attempt to establish a different voice on the page, I began to write this column, World of Books, and in one of the earlier columns, when one is looking around for things to write about, Penguin had just reissued about six Wodehouses with bright new covers, and I wrote a column saying Wodehouse was a great writer and ended it by saying that it was a great shame that there wasn’t a proper biography.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives