Monday, February 24, 2014

The Fantasy of Max Perkins

I have been reading Scott Berg's Biography of Max Perkins and it is really just unbelievable. This man was something of a Saint and after that he was Santa Claus. And after that he was brilliant. It really is a world Gone with The Wind. Take the financing of F Scott Fitzgerald after The Great Gatsby tanked in sales (unbelievable right) and he was broke again. Perkins would then gin up a collection of short stories and front him the money. Or he would front him the money against a possible movie sale on the novel he was working on or on serialization rights. Or he would just loan him the money.

Or how about discovering Ernest Hemingway and going to bat for words he could not bare to utter himself. Perkins could not stand profanity yet he went against the owner of Charles Scribner's and Sons to pull for Hemingway's right to include such words. Or how about discovering a young Fitzgerald and sending back the novel three times (This Side of Paradise) for rewrites and then going against the powers that be at Scribners and threatening to resign if they didn't publish him. And he had just started there!

Or how about taking Tom Wolfe's novel Look Homeward Angel and editing it from a the rambling mess to a cohesive book and then doing it again for his second novel that was more than a million words. And taking the author into his house while he did the editing and enduring his  verbal drunken abuse all the while he did him the biggest favor anybody would ever do for him by publishing what would have been an unintelligible mess.

These stories of go on and on. I have a great editor and I have no complaints,  but Max Perkins belongs to a different world when writers were Gods and editors were angels of mercy. Pure fantasy in the year 2013.
The PItcher...Sometimes a dream is all you have

Books by William Hazelgrove