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Though the letters which make up this collection were written by some of the most famous—or infamous, depending on your school of thought—authors of the twentieth century, this book is less interested in fame and more interested in the multiplicity of roles an editor might assume in an attempt to develop, appreciate, and maintain the creative selfs of those authors which they edit. Max Perkins was a chameleon. In one instance, a father, the next, a butcher of grammar and pagination, and shortly thereafter, an adversary soon-to-be followed by an unlikely friend—the man adapted according to the needs of the individual author. Hidden in this book are amazing anecdotes, heartfelt insights, and the all-too-true reality that one’s support system is even more necessary than one’s talent. Plus, Max Perkins is a hilarious letter writer who knew how to crack a joke.
In April 1938 F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his editor Maxwell Perkins, What a time you've had with your sons, Max - Ernest gone to Spain, me gone to Hollywood, Tom Wolfe reverting to an artistic hill-billy. As the sole literary editor with name recognition among students of American literature, Perkins remains permanently linked to Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe in literary history and literary myth. Their relationships, which were largely epistolary, play out in the 221 letters Matthew J. Bruccoli has assembled in this volume. The collection documents the extent of the fatherly forbearance, attention, and encouragement the legendary Scribners editor gave to his authorial sons. The correspondence portrays his ability to juggle the requirements of his three geniuses. Perkins wanted his stars to be close friends and wrote to each of them about the others. Fitzgerald, Hemingway on Wolfe and Fitzgerald. The novelists also wrote to each other. But contrary to Perkins's hopes for a brotherhood among them, their letters express rivalry and suspicion rather than affinity. Perkins encouraged the writers professionally but never took sides in their sibling rivalries. Addressing an overlooked aspect of literary study, the letters center on the acts of writing, editing, and publishing, and on the writers' relationships with Scribners and one another. In addition to providing insight into the personalities of these literary heroes, the correspondence reveals how editing and publishing have changed since the twenties and thirties - a golden era for Scribners and for American literature. In particular, the letters correct the incomplete, oversimplified popular image of Perkins and his function as an editor - especially his relationship with Thomas Wolfe.