Instead of a Book | Granta

  • Published: 04/10/2012
  • ISBN: 9781847084149
  • 129x20mm
  • 352 pages

Instead of a Book

Diana Athill

Diana Athill has corresponded with the American poet Edward Field for over thirty years, freely sharing jokes, pleasures and pains with her old friend, and writing with an intimacy and spontaneity even more revealing than the candour of her celebrated memoirs.

Edited, selected and introduced by Athill, and annotated with her own delightful notes, this collection of those letters reveals a sharply intelligent woman with a keen eye for the absurd, a brilliant turn of phrase and a wicked sense of humour. Covering her career as an editor, the adventure of her retirement, her immersion in her own writing and her reactions to becoming unexpectedly famous in her old-age, and including gossip about mutual friends, sharp pen portraits, and uninhibited accounts her relationships – and ailments – Instead of a Book gives a wonderful description of a woman growing older without ever losing her zest for life.

Fascinating and surprising ... Athill is a wonderful letter writer - always aware of the need to entertain and beguile the reader ... Every page of this book shows that Athill's eye is as beady as ever

Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times

Encounter again, the sheer joy of her brisk, wry and hugely energetic prose

Christina Patterson, Independent

These are vivid reports on life in late 20th-century Britain as experienced by a writer, editor, daughter, partner and pensioner with an extraordinarily "beady eye" on human relations and a phenomenal capacity for making the most of everything that comes her way ... She owes us nothing. She has given a very great deal

Alexandra Harris, Guardian

The Author

Diana Athill was born in 1917. She helped André Deutsch establish the publishing company that bore his name and worked as an editor for Deutsch for four decades. Athill’s distinguished career as an editor is the subject of her acclaimed memoir Stet. She is the author of seven further volumes of memoirs, Instead of a Letter, After a Funeral, Yesterday Morning, Make Believe, Somewhere Towards the End, Alive, Alive Oh!, A Florence Diary, and a collection of letters, Instead of a Book, all published by Granta. Her only novel, Don’t Look At Me Like That, was first published in 1967. In January 2009, she won the Costa Biography Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and was presented with an OBE. She died in January 2019.

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From the Same Author

Diana Athill on

Fiction | Granta Books

Don’t Look at Me Like That

Diana Athill

‘When I was at school I used to think that everyone disliked me, and it wasn’t far from true.’

Essays & Memoir | Granta 69

Editing Vidia

Diana Athill

‘I thought so highly of Vidia’s writing and felt his presence on our list to be so important that I simply could not allow myself not to like him.’

Essays & Memoir | Granta 69


Diana Athill

‘My two valuable lessons are: avoid romanticism and abhor possessiveness.’