Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Andrew Mason R.I.P.
A tribute by Denis Welch.

The 1980s was probably the Listener’s last golden age. At the end of that decade it shrank to its present size, and then it was sold to Wilson & Horton and ceased to be asubsidiary of state broadcasting; now it’s just one of manyhorses in Tony O’Reilly’s global media stable and, given the current state of his finances, it’ll probably be flicked onto a new owner soon.

But the 80s… the magazine lost its monopoly on advance TV program information in 1982 and inexorably the circulation, which had averaged a freakish 380,000 for a while, began to slide. Even so, formost of the rest of the 80s it was around 250,000; andwhat you can’t get over, looking back at old copies, is how big the magazine was—A3 size, no less.

Everything in it was literally writ large; photos and cartoons seem enormous by today's standards. There’s a prodigality about it that probably reflects only too well the big-spending ethos of the era.

Trace Hodgson’s stunning political cartoons splatterthe pages like graffiti daubed on the nation’s wall.There was a great flowering of feature-writing too, with writers like Murray McLaughlin, Sue McTagget, BruceAnsley, Helen Paske and Gordon Campbell given seemingly unlimited room to move.

But the true glory of the magazine then was the Books section, which under, first, Vincent O’Sullivan and then Andrew Mason attained an authority unmatched before or since. In the late 80s, as the front ofthe magazine began to lose shape, the Books pages kept theirs—and that was entirely due to Andrew, whose literaryjudgment and exquisite editing eye gave the book reviews unimpeachable integrity. They were never showy or flashy; the layouts were models of restraint.
The sole merit of the reviews lay in their content, which Andrew had supervised down to the last comma. I remember his precisely pencilled sub editing marks on the copy that went to the printer (no screens then). They showed absolute attention to every line of every review—the editing often so deftly done that the writer didn’t even realise how much had been scalpelled out. Sick copy was healed in Andrew’s hands.
Read Denis' full tribute to Andrew Mason on his blog Opposable thumb.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I met Andrew only once (to my knowledge.)He was quiet, observant, background.) And then I thought, You're actually the *only* mainstream literary editor I've met. You're also the only literary editor I have met who asked me for a drawing to a short story.
And wow! -will the future get interesting!
(Hoping for an overlap between words & pictures...)
Well, no, it didnt.
I learned - from Bub - about Andrew's generosity: thought, how truly kind, how couth!
A good man, I thought, in the early 2000s ( after I met Bub at Te Hara Nui O Niu Tireni) must catch up with him again sometime.
I knew he was younger than me.
Saddened that he is dead. Denis Welch's poroporoaiki is a goodie...