6 SEPTEMBER 1975, Page 15

Book marks

My tale this week is of a very disillusioned man — a civilised American anglophile called David A. Jasen, author of the new 'authorised' biography of P. G. Wodehouse published by Garnstone Press. Students of the literary scene may well have wondered why P. G. Wodehouse: a Portrait of a Master did not come from Messrs Barrie and Jenkins who, initially as Herbert Jenkins, have been publishing the Wodehouse novels since 1918. As a matter of fact, Jasen's biography — the culmination of thirteen years' study and a lifetime's admiration of the Master — was offered to Jenkins as far back as 1964, after P. G. had given his blessing to the American professor. Sadly, -the publishers were not over-impressed with the result of his labours which, they thought, suffered from one major defect: despite the meticulous scholarship and unquestionable enthusiasm, Professor Jasen simply could not write.

Tactful correspondence followed. There was talk of finding a collaborator, of submitting the work to a process of radical editing, of leaving it in abeyance "from the point of view of perspective." Perspective or not, the book was indeed left in abeyance — the publishers never quite saying that it was unpublishable and the author clinging to the ever -diminishing hope that he might one day sit alongside his idol on the Jenkins list. This state of affairs dragged on for some years until, one November morning in 1971, the Sunday Times printed a story to the effect that Jenkins had commissioned Richard Usborne, author of an earlier study of Wodehouse, to write the full biography of the Master. The story was incorrect but it finally persuaded Professor Jasen that the writing was on the wall — or at least was not to be on the Barrie and Jenkins wall.

An English friend immediately placed it with the first publisher to whom it was offered, and Garnstone Press duly agreed to get it out as soon as possible. An editor worked against the clock to pull the manuscript into shape. Before long, however, it became clear to Professor Jasen that he had jumped out of one rather unproductive frying pan into an equally slow-burning fire. For this reason and that, and for others known only to Garnstone Press, P. G. Wodehouse did not appear in 1972, nor yet in 1973, nor even in 1974. It finally appeared two weeks ago, some six months after Wodehouse's death and over ten years after the manuscript was first delivered.

Handy Andy

I hope that book collectors heeded my tip of seven weeks ago regarding The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Bach Again. The self-styled artist had autographed 6,000 copies of the book which must have made the few remaining copies worth something. Now I hear he's signed 6,000 more.

Teaching foriegners

The Book Development Council — the hard-working export arm of the Publishers Association — has just published an ambassadorial document called How To Obtain British Books. On the first page the BDC draws particular attention to the Bookseller — "the representative trade journal published monthly by Whitaker". I hesitate to point this out after sixty-six years, but most people get their Bookseller weekly.