The Latest from the Front Lines of Literature
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Writers and editors on craft, publishing, reception, and more...
Writers in Conversation, Editors and Authors in Conversation, and more...
We’ve rounded up some of the best of what our authors have been doing, reading, and thinking this week.
On August 29, 1957, Candida sent me a note that read, “ Here is the script of CATCH 18 by Joseph Heller about which we talked yesterday. I’ve been watching Heller ever since the publication of Chapter 1 in New World Writing about a year ago. He’s published a good bit in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, etc. I’ll tell you more about him when I see you at lunch next week. As ever, Candida.” About seventy-five pages of manuscript came with it, and I was knocked out by the voice, the humor, the anger. We offered Joe five hundred dollars as an option payment. This was only months after Jack Goodman’s death, and the editorial department had developed no real modus operandi; I suppose I just said “I want to do this” and there was nobody interested enough to say no. Joe and Candida decided to wait until there was enough of a manuscript to warrant an actual contract.
As an undergraduate I became fixated on my tutor, Ann Wordsworth, a woman of devastating command who held the other English Literature dons in contempt. Tutorials were conducted in a grubby shed in the college grounds where we chain-smoked Gitanes and quaffed red wine from, for some reason, small cartons. In an attempt to impersonate Ann’s wistful, pained intellect, I employed in those years a world-weary prose style, and while I read out my weekly essays she listened, hunched up in an attitude of agony, dragging heavily on her cigarette, eyes fixed on the filthy, threadbare carpet.