Maxwell Perkins has rightly been called an “editor of genius,” partly if not largely because he was willing to gamble that today’s unknown author can become tomorrow’s toast of the literary town. Thus he bought an at-the-time risqué work from a Minnesota-born Princeton graduate at the outset of the twenties, thus he later persuaded the powers-that-were at Scribner’s to accept a novel about expatriates in Paris and Spain, thus he finally turned the massive, meandering manuscript of a gangling North Carolinian into Look Homeward, Angel, and thus American literature was enriched by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. Yet it seems likely that Max Perkins would be persona non grata in the commercial publishing world of the 1980’s, a gifted gentleman hopelessly out of step with the times. Indeed, these are the times that would try Max Perkins’ soul—the times of the big bucks and the big deals, of conglomerate giants and bottom lines, of blockbusters and hard-sell bookstores. And the climate of such times is hardly conducive to the nurturing of unknown and untried talent which—God forbid—could prove to be unprofitable. These times on the literary scene are the object of Mary Lee Settle’s scorn—and the subject of her VQR essay. No one can accuse Ms. Settle of being a stranger to commercial publishing. As the author of nine novels and a nonfiction account of her World War II service in England, she has made the rounds of publishing houses and editors. She has also known the privations and prejudices so often the rewards of a serious fiction writer. In fact, it was not until after the publication of her eighth novel, Blood Tie, in the late summer of 1977 that Mary Lee Settle began to attract the serious attention of critics, and then only because the book won the National Book Award for fiction in April 1978. Now, however, with the publication in October 1980 of her ninth novel, Scapegoat, Ms. Settle appears to be gaining her rightful place in the literary firmament.
Charles Maechling, Jr. contends the present relationship between the United States and Japan constitutes a “brittle alliance.” His description of this alliance, one more than three decades old, is not the orthodox view of U.S.-Japanese relations. It is, however, the view of a veteran observer of American diplomacy. After receiving his B.A. degree from Yale in 1941, Mr. Maechling entered the U.S. Navy and became a member of the secretariat of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and attended the 1943 Cairo Conference. Later, after receiving a law degree in 1949 from the University of Virginia and practicing law in New York and Washington, Mr. Maechling joined the Department of State, where he served as a special assistant to the Under-Secretary for Political Affairs and a special assistant to Ambassador-at-Large Averell Harriman in 1965—66.
Appearing in the VQR for the first time, Maur Bettman is a resident of California. “We raise sheep and some cattle in Sonoma County, where my husband is a rancher and veterinarian, and where I teach at The Old Adobe School,” she writes. “Saturdays, with luck, I get to write about twelve hours at a stretch. So, you can imagine how delighted (and relieved) I am to have “The Edessa Legend” published.”
The life and works of Henry Thoreau have long fascinated Walter Harding, so much so that he will observe his 40th anniversary as secretary of the Thoreau Society this year. Mr. Harding is a Distinguished Professor of American Literature at the State University of New York at Geneseo. He is the author of The Days of Henry Thoreau, published by Knopf in 1965, among some 20-odd other books on Thoreau or his fellow Transcendentalists. While he does not say whether he lives by a pond, Mr. Harding, like the author of Walden, lives in the woods “a mile from my nearest neighbor.”
Daniel Mark Epstein’s “Lafayette Square” is a poetic version of the greatest tragedy in the life of Henry Adams—the suicide of his wife Clover. The poem, which runs to 232 lines plus epigraph, will be published in Mr. Epstein’s forthcoming volume, The Book of Fortune, to be published this year by Overlook Press/Viking. He is an assistant professor of English at Johns Hopkins University.
Eleanor Ross Taylor has recently been teaching a course in poetry at the University of Virginia. She is the wife of the distinguished American short story writer, Peter Taylor. Her VQR poems are from her latest volume, The Ribbon to Norwood, which George Braziller will bring out this year.
Heather Mchugh teaches at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is appearing in VQR for the first time, and her poems are from her second book, Blue Streak, a forthcoming Houghton Mifflin book.
Barbara Eve is also making her VQR debut. She is a resident of New York City, and her work has appeared in Antaeus, Esquire, The Nation, and other magazines.
Linda Pastan’s Setting the Table was published by Dryad Press last year and is a collection of poems about various kinds of food, including chocolates, croissants, and the historic apple. Her VQR poems are from her forthcoming book, Waiting for My Life, which Norton will be bringing out later this year.
William Stafford, a widely published poet whose work has appeared previously in VQR, is the author of Stories that Could Be True, a collection of poems published by Harper & Row in 1977. An earlier work, Traveling Through the Dark, received the 1963 National Book Award in poetry.
Both a critic and a novelist, Jane Barnes is the author of I, Krupskaya, a novel about the wife of the Soviet leader Lenin. She won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete a second novel, Double Lives, a story about the secrets which family members keep from each other. Double Lives takes place at a large summer house in Rhode Island during the summer of 1966 and will be published by Doubleday this winter.
Ted Walker is a British poet, short story writer, and playwright. His more recent collections of verse include Gloves to the Hangman and Burning the Ivy. His short stories have frequently appeared in The New Yorker, and the BBC has broadcast his plays on television and radio. The recipient of several literary prizes, notably the Cholmondeley Award, Mr. Walker is married, has four children, and lives in the south of England.
Though he was born in Georgia and grew up in New York City, A.S. Knowles, Jr. has an abiding affection for Parkersburg, West Virginia, where his parents have lived since the 1940’s. That city and how it has weathered the changing times are the subjects of his essay. Mr. Knowles is a professor of English at North Carolina State University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1955. His main concern is with such 20th-century writers as Hemingway, John Dos Passes, Carson McCullers, and Henry Roth.
Margaret Edwards is a member of the English faculty at the University of Vermont and was a recipient in 1979 of a National Endowment for the Arts grant to write fiction. Her latest VQR story, she writes, “is the result of my having watched the new year of 1969 appear in New Orleans out of the smoke and delirium of 1968, more than a decade ago.”
Among America’s most prolific and respected authors, Robert Coles is a psychiatrist by profession. His association with the South dates back to more than twenty years ago, when he went to Biloxi, Mississippi as a U.S. Air Force officer. His widely acclaimed Children of Crisis, a. multivolume study of black and other underprivileged children, was a recipient of a 1972 Pulitzer Prize.
Larry Sabato has just completed a book on the new campaign technology in American politics. He is also the author of an earlier work, Goodby to Good-Time Charlie, a study of the changing role of American governors between 1950 and 1975. He is a member of the Government and Foreign Affairs Department at the University of Virginia.
Albert E. Stone is professor of English and chairman of American Studies at the University of Iowa. He is at work on a book on modern American autobiography.
One of the best-known contemporary literary scholars in the South, Lewis P. Simpson has been a member of the English faculty of Louisiana State University since 1948. He has also served as co-editor of The Southern Review since 1964. His numerous books include The Federalist Literary Mind, The Man of Letters in New England and the South, and The Dispossessed Garden: Pastoral and History in Southern Literature.
Maxine Brown completed her review of Malcolm Cowley’s latest book of memoirs just before she left for Poland, where she is teaching as a Fulbright Scholar this academic year. Since 1976 she has been assisting the biographer Virginia Spencer Carr in researching for a biography of John Dos Passos and thus has become well acquainted with the people and the period of the Great Depression.
Janice Carlisle began writing about Victorian fiction as a graduate student at Cornell (Ph. D., 1973). She has published articles on the subject in journals such as ELH and Studies in the Novel. Her book on Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot will appear from the University of Georgia Press in the fall of 1981.
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