The British literary magazine Granta recently released its 100th issue, an erudite event chronicled by The Guardian’s Simon Garfield, who reports on how the literary institution—powered by the fedora-clad “inspired ‘lunacy’ ” of impresario Bill Buford—rose from a dusty Cambridge student magazine to a modern literary bellwether.
Since its 1979 launch, Granta discovered Salman Rushie, and has published screeds from Susan Sontag, Doris Lessing, and pretty much anyone else you’d ever want to pick up. It is, in Garfield’s words: “almost always an exciting and rewarding and illuminating thing to read.” His brief history is full of colorful tales of the gargantuan Buford. Here’s a taste:
When Hanif Kureishi met Buford in the mid-Eighties after the success of My Beautiful Laundrette, he found him to be “everything I thought literary people were like— this tough, hard-drinking, eccentric, charismatic, very talented man who knew everyone.” And of course, Kureishi suffered for his art along with the rest. “Bill was a savage editor—he would come round to your house almost at random and start cutting into your stuff. Ed White rang me up one day and said he didn’t realise he was a minimalist until he ran into Buford.”
“How was that experience?” I asked Kureishi. “Was it humiliating, rewarding, enriching, infuriating?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Write all those words down. I wouldn’t stand for it now.”