Remembering Gary Pulsifer
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 26th March, 2016
The American publisher, Gary Pulsifer, who died yesterday from cancer chose to spend most of his professional life in England, where he became a much-loved feature of London’s literary scene. Quite small and slight, he was a bundle of energy, with a waspish tongue that relished mocking the pretentious without being viscious. I met him through the novelist Francis King, at whose dinner parties Gary would keep up a running commentary on authors of the day, including special favourites such as Shere Hite, as well as giving devastating impersonations of figures such as his earstwhile employer, Peter Owen. Gary thrived on gossip, whether it was the latest goings-on within the tightly-knit expat community in Tangiers or the tempestuous domestic life of Britain’s royal family. He really came into his own when he founded Arcadia, which became one of the UK’s most interesting independent publishers, though one that often lived from hand to mouth. Finance was not Gary’s strong suit. However, he did have an eye for interesting new ventures, spotting the potential of Norwegian and other Nordic fiction long before this became mainstream. His personal life had its ups and downs, which is largely why he ended up living at the Retreat at Park Langley, where members of the book trade on limited incomes could roost. He seemed unperturbed by being surrounded by fellow residents who were considerably older than himself, and he relished the chance to garden in the Retreat’s grounds. Eventually Arcadia went into receivership, and not very long after it was bought out and relaunched he was dismissed. The official reason for this was financial savings, but Gary commented stoically that he could see it coming as there was not room for more than one big fish in such a small pond. While ending his days in a hospice, typically he left instructions that there should be no funeral, but I do hope there will in time be a giant wake, at which his legions of friends will drink late into a summer’s afternoon, while Gary emits his characteristic shriek of mock horror and delight from the beyond.