Monday, March 02, 2015

Old style, James Laughlin goes above and beyond.

I know the default stance among publishing people is to look back at the early-to-mid-century golden era and lament what's been lost, but then I read a passage like the following from Ian S. MacNiven's new biography of New Directions founder James Laughlin, and I think, good god, I'm glad that my job has boundaries:
He argued over Fascism and anti-semitism with Pound, and scolded Henry Miller for his obscenity and his pecuniary fecklessness; he was raucously denounced by Kenneth Rexroth for publishing "fairies like Tennessee Williams," and cursed by Edward Dahlberg for printing nearly everyone but himself; he sought advice from paranoiac Delmore Schwartz, bought ballet shoes for Celine's wife, paid Kenneth Patchen's medical bills, went to the morgue to identify Dylan Thomas, helped Nabokov with his lepidopterology, meticulously arranged into the acclaimed Asian Journal the chaos of notes that his friend Merton left behind after his tragic electrocution, dined with Octavio Paz at the Century, and discovered Paul Bowles, Denise Levertov, and John Hawkes.
Now, to be clear, some of the activities on that list are close to ordinary, while others are honorable, and contributed substantially to the good of readers. But oh, how glad I am not to be in a position where someone I'm working with thinks it reasonable for me to buy his wife ballet shoes!


  1. I had much rather have shopped for ballet shoes than have needed to hear Dahlberg's complaints and respond to them civilly.

  2. I can definitely see that position.

  3. Hard to believe that Celine ever had a wife... I am sure she deserved the shoes for putting up with him.