By Anna Porter
In Other Words
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: September 2018
In Other Words is a lively, charming, gossipy memoir of life in the publishing trenches and how one restlessly curious young woman sparked a creative awakening in a new country she chose to call home.
“We need our own dreams.” — Anna Porter
When Anna Porter arrived in Canada in early 1968 with one battered suitcase, little money and a head full of dreams, she had no idea that this country would become her home for the rest of her life, or that she would play a major role in defining what it means to be Canadian. And where better to become a Canadian than at the dynamic publishing house, McClelland & Stewart, an epicentre of cultural and artistic creation in post-Expo Canada?
Anna Porter’s story takes you behind the scenes into the non-stop world of Jack McClelland, the swashbuckling head of M&S whose celebrated authors — Leonard Cohen, Margaret Laurence, Pierre Berton, Peter C. Newman, Irving Layton, Margaret Atwood — dominated bestseller lists. She offers up first-hand stories of struggling young writers (often women); of prima donnas, such as Roloff Beny and Harold Town, whose excesses threatened to sink the company; of exhausted editors dealing with intemperate writers; of crazy schemes to interest Canadians in buying books. She recalls the thrilling days at the helm of the company she founded in the 1980s, when Canada’s writers were suddenly front-page news. As president of Key Porter Books, she dodged lawsuits, argued with bank managers, and fought to sell Canadian authors around the world. This intriguing memoir brings to life that time in our history when — finally — the voices Canadians craved to hear were our own.
In Other Words is a love letter to Canada’s authors and creative agitators who, against almost impossible odds, have sustained and advanced the nation’s writing culture. Moving effortlessly from the boardrooms of Canada’s elite and the halls of power in Ottawa, to the threadbare offices of idealistic young publishers and, ultimately, to her own painful yet ever-present past in Hungary, Porter offers an unforgettable insider’s account of what is gained—and lost—in a lifetime of championing our stories.
Praise for In Other Words
“As a publisher, Anna Porter has spent years trying to convince many of her authors to tell the “real” stories about what they’ve witnessed behind the scenes. In this gritty, insider’s tell all, Porter takes her own advice and shares what she’s seen during some of the most intriguing moments of Canada’s book publishing history. There’s no holding back, from the gossip to the feuds to that special magic that makes some books soar and others fade. And then there are the authors, some of the biggest Canadian names on the shelf–let’s just say this close up look is very revealing!”
PETER MANSBRIDGE, former anchor of CBC’s The National
“This book is like reading Anna Porter’s personal diary as she chronicles — with wit and wisdom– the most amazing era of books and book publishing in Canadian history. Full of stories, secrets and wry observations, it turns literary legends into real people — Atwood, Lawrence, Cohen, Purdy, Birney, the great Jack MacClelland and dozens of others are all here in these pages, struggling with their own trials and tribulations. Plus attending amazing parties! This book will make you yearn for the Golden Age of Canadian culture.”
CAROL OFF, journalist and bestselling author of All We Leave Behind
“Anna Porter’s richly detailed memoir of her forty year career in Canadian publishing offers an insider look at the industry she helped to create. Porter brings to abundant life her literary contemporaries, including a poetically precise depiction of my late mother, Barbara Frum. In Other Words allows readers a firsthand glimpse at the lives of some of the most talented Canadian writers and personalities of our time. A captivating read about an under-chronicled period of Canadian cultural history.”
LINDA FRUM, daughter of Barbara Frum
“When I’m struck by the work of an author, I’m inclined to learn more about their life. My interest is only heightened by the sense of mystery that surrounds the generations of authors writing before social media — when there wasn’t the same pressure to disclose everything, to opine on all subjects and to talk as much about the author, as about their work. Editor and publisher Anna Porter, originally Szigethy Anna from Hungary, offers a conversational, intimate and at times quite funny “who’s who” of Canadian writing in her memoir In Other Words — How I Fell in Love with Canada One Book at a Time….[continue reading]”
CHRISTOPHER ADAM, Book Review: In Other Words by Anna Porter