"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Forget All the Other New Jersey Suburbs

RIP Rust Hills, former Esquire editor and fussy man.

In 1963 Mr. Hills conceived an entire literary issue of the magazine, which included stories, but also interviews with writers; a photo essay on writers’ lives; a snarky profile by Gay Talese of the circle surrounding George Plimpton’s Paris Review; and most controversially, an illustrated diagram of “The Structure of the American Literary Establishment,” identifying writers, agents, publishers, reviewers and events that Mr. Hills determined to be at and around the “red-hot center” of American literary life. The issue and especially the map angered many who felt they ought to have been included and many who were, but entertained just about everybody else.

Yes, we read his Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular in college, and thought he had a funny name.

Okay, full disclosure, as a friend says, I thought his writing book was eh and included a bad story he had written, unless I read that elsewhere. It was part of a writing workshop I took with one of the two really awful writing teachers I've had (I've had good ones, too). I've since seen her work anthologized, and I'm distinctly unimpressed.

It is possible her ineptitude colored my opinion of his book.

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