Publisher Allen Lane came up with the idea for Penguin Books, which are 80 years old this month, when he was at a railway station bookstall searching in vain for something cheap and worthwhile to read. And the imprint's famous name resulted from his wish to have a "dignified but flippant" symbol, his secretary immediately suggesting a penguin.
The rest, as they say, is history, generations of young people having been awakened to literature, history, philosophy and science by means of Lane's affordable books, and the firm making international headlines in 1960 when it was sued for publishing DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover - the main prosecution lawyer famously asking the jury if they'd wish their wife or servant to be reading such filth.
There are now 2,600 Penguin titles under various imprints, the five bestselling Penguin Classics being Alice in Wonderland, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein and Great Expectations.
And now, to mark their anniversary, Penguin are releasing what they term 80 "little black classics", each of them 64 pages long, selling at 80p and featuring works by such authors as Chaucer, Montaigne, Swift, Hardy, Hopkins and Wilde.
But if Penguin's success is the result of branding genius, I'm less persuaded by the rebranding of the Dublin Writers Festival as the clunkier-sounding International Literature Festival Dublin, which doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. This new incarnation runs from May 16 to 24 with Martin Colthorpe as programme director, though a "talented" marketing assistant is still being sought.
This year's line-up of participants and events won't be announced until early next month, but we're assured that aspiring authors can have a "date with an agent" when submissions will be judged by five such literary brokers.
Closing date for entries (the first 1,500 words of a projected book or finished book, along with a 1,000-word synopsis) is March 27.
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