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A Bite of the Apple


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Table of Contents

Preface Part One: A New Kind of Being 1: First Bites: The early years 2: Setting the world on fire 3: The acceptable face of feminism? Why not! Part Two: The Books 4: The Virago Modern Classics 5: Fuck the Patriarchy!: Nonfiction 6: What Stories Can Do: Fiction Part Three: The Politics: office and otherwise 7: The Dramas 8: Disrupting the old stories 9: Beyond Borders 10: Up, Down and Up Again Part Four: The Power to Publish is a Wonderful Thing 11: The Intimacy of Editing 12: Does any other successful publisher get asked constantly if they are still necessary? 13: Why can't a man read like a woman? 14: Giving and taking courage

About the Author

Lennie Goodings is Chair of the UK publishing house Virago Press. Her authors include, amongst many others, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, Sarah Waters, Natasha Walter, Sandi Toksvig and Marilynne Robinson. Goodings was part of Virago's management buy-out team of five who created a newly independent Virago in 1987 and became the Publishing Director in 1992. In 1995 Virago was sold to Little, Brown where Goodings remained the Publisher and Editorial Director. She stepped back from that position in 2017 and became Virago Chair, still editing and commissioning her authors. Lennie Goodings won the Bookseller's Industry Award: Editor and Imprint of the Year in 2010 and A Lifetime's Achievement at WOW, London's Southbank Women of the World festival in 2018. Born in Canada, she came to London in her early twenties and has remained there since. She is married with two children. Working with authors and books is her passion.


An immersive, lovingly written memoir, whose story resonates beyond publishing. * Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Sunday Times *
An inspiring book. * Sarah Baxter, The Sunday Times *
Pensive and surprisingly poignant...this book glows with the gratitude of doing [the work of an editor], and in doing so, finding oneself occupying a front seat to feminist history...It's a memoir that doesn't merely look backward, but in its form, in all its limitations, gestures at the work to be done. It's a memoir of a Virago reader. * Parul Sehgal, New York Times *
Moving and hugely inspiring ... As a cultural history, A Bite of the Apple is clear. As a reminder of female artists' ongoing fight for space and respect, it's necessary. As a riff on writers and writing, it's essential. * Bidisha, The Observer *
What Goodings is so good at drawing out are the interrelations between various social and political movements and their correlatives in publishing and literature. Not only does she recover Virago's story, but she loops in the narratives of various authors and movements, building up a rich and textured historical fabric ... An inspiring, entertaining and insightful read, full of the energy and fervour of hard-won wisdom. * Sean Hewitt, The Irish Times *
This history has it all: boardroom wrangles, bestsellers, legendary authors ... fascinating stuff on the complex alchemy of talent, political fashion and marketability that propels certain authors forward at certain times, and the loving effort and attention involved in editing a manuscript. * Melissa Benn, New Statesman *
What runs through A Bite of the Apple, unifying it and contributing to its charm, is the passion for books you'd expect, but also an impressive idealism about the ways in which the published word can change society and help readers to become the people they want to be. * Mark Bostridge, The Spectator *
This little book is as candid and charming as its cover ... One of the most interesting chapters relates to the craft closest to editor Goodings' heart, the craft of editing and the complex relationship between editor and author. * Jane Haile, New York Journal of Books *
[Goodings'] thoughts on the great industry issues of the day are well worth reading. * DJ Taylor, Literary Review *
A Bite of the Apple feels effortless, and so alive to the conversations about women's rights today ... [Goodings'] voice is engaging and full of warmth. * Julie Vuong, BookBrunch *
Goodings' account of her life at the inkface vividly, and with immediacy, transports us from those poky London rooms where the mouse that roared was born, into the realpolitik of international publishing. * The Sydney Morning Herald *
Consistently fascinating ... a book that shows how Virago transformed the world. * Colin Oehring, The Saturday Paper *
Fascinating and beautifully written. * Dan Carrier, Camden New Journal *
Informative, lively, reflective, and somehow a poignant mix of honest, generous, and forgiving. * Simon, Shiny New Books *
All an apple should be: crisp, tart but sweet, steeped in mysterious history and tangled symbolism, and not a bad missile when it comes to alleyway combat. Oh, and delicious! * Margaret Atwood, on Twitter *
There is so very much to enjoy -and learn about- in this engaging book. We meet a young Lennie from Canada, in love with books, who lands a job at Virago and over the years survives and steers many of its changes to ensure its safety and vibrancy. Along the way, we track the changes in the publishing industry, feminist practice, and encounter the magnificence of Virago authors. A wonderful memoir and such a great read. * Susie Orbach *
An indispensable piece of feminist history; nothing less than the exciting story of how women found their voice and made society listen. I enjoyed it hugely. * Caroline Criado Perez *
Lively, frank, fascinating and above all, inspiring. A celebration of boldness: of wanting something better and making change happen. * Sarah Waters *
Behind every great book there is a great editor. And behind every feminist press, a remarkable set of women. Lennie Goodings is one of both. * Sarah Dunant *
A fascinating, charming and sometimes fierce, but always beguiling memoir... A celebration of the power of women supporting women. * Kate Mosse *
Enthralling ...the best book I've read on publishing since Diana Athill's Stet. * Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller *

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