London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers steps down after 30 years | London Review of Books
Mary-Kay Wilmers is stepping down from her role as editor of the London Review of Books, a position she has held for nearly 30 years.
In 1979 Wilmers was one of the founders of the literary magazine together with Karl Miller and Susannah Clapp, became co-editor in 1988 and has been its sole editor since 1992. In 2019, when the LRB celebrated its 40th anniversary, it was named “Britain’s Most Influential Publisher” by the New York Times.
Wilmers will continue to work as a consultant editor for the newspaper. The LRB’s Assistant Editor Jean McNicol and Senior Editor Alice Spawls succeed her. McNicol has been with the magazine since 1987 when she was an editorial assistant, while Spawls joined LRB in 2011 as an editorial intern.
“The successor was planned for a long time and I am very proud to hand over the editorial office to two such talented women,” said the 82-year-old Wilmers. “I will continue to do my part as an advisory editor.”
Wilmers’ personal life has been documented in Love, Nina, the bestseller of her former nanny, the author Nina Stibbe. In the 2016 BBC adaptation, Wilmers was portrayed by actress Helena Bonham Carter.
“A) Oh no, it’s the end of an era. B) I hope people won’t annoy them if they say “End of an era” and talk about it, “said Stibbe.” People said the LRB is their life. It isn’t. It is their job and they is very thorough. “
Stibbe, who has been friends with Wilmers since they first met in 1982, said she was trying to come up with ideas for the LRB while doing nanny: “I could start with Virginia Woolf and she could say, ‘Sorry, I will watch me match of the day ‘. Once I raved about Sue Townsend, the new writer, about Adrian Mole’s secret diary. And she said, “If you like it that much, do you check it out for the paper?” I refused and thought: do your own homework!
In 2014, the Observer said that the LRB, which had a circulation of more than 78,000 copies in 2019, had become under Wilmers’ a “highly respected publication with an influence far beyond the rare world of low-circulation literary magazines”.
The LRB appears twice a month and has listed names such as Christopher Hitchens, Seamus Heaney, Angela Carter and Hilary Mantel among its contributors. Wilmers has said in the past that she sees “the paper,” as she calls it – a mix of book reviews, art criticism, and lengthy essays – as an antidote to the equality seen elsewhere in the media.
“Newspapers say the same thing over and over and we’re all horrified and collectively in the arms and usually has something more than one side,” she told the Observer in 2014. “So when you hear someone say something coherent and intelligent, that’s not completely out of order, it’s interesting to read. “
Last year she stated that the LRB held out “because we have a sense of humor that can be seen without necessarily being declared. We are not confronted, so to speak. “
Andrew O’Hagan, a longtime associate of the magazine and a close friend of Wilmers, called it “a big moment.”
“Mary-Kay was the best literary editor of her generation,” he said. “It is an international treasure, not only because it has kept the British essay alive and growing, but because it has driven reports and memoirs into the digital age. Very quietly, for decades, she has been a pioneering light in the literary life of this country and one of the most hardworking people I have ever known. It was always great writing for her – more of a dance than a solo flight, less of an assignment than an education. “
In a statement, Spawls and McNicol said, “The LRB is the best paper in the world, thanks to Mary-Kay, and we intend to keep it that way. We never wanted to work anywhere else, and neither of us ever did. “