Thursday, January 03, 2008

The optimism of editors, or Edith at the bat

Imagine that you are an editor. Now imagine that you're writing to one of the most famous (and famously formidable, aristocratic, icy, and rich) women writers in the world, Edith Wharton. Would you write this? This anecdote from Hermione Lee's Edith Wharton made me laugh out loud.

She [Wharton] kept a collection of what she considered her most absurd fan-letters and editors' requests from America, sometimes marking them "funny," like the letter to "Miss Wharton" from the Globe in Minnesota, offering her one cent a word for an article with a "light touch" and "local colour," which "should not shrink at portraying the little quirks of human nature," and should be "true (authentic, authoritative, believable, etc.)." "We hope you will go in to bat for us," the letter concluded. "The deadline was yesterday."

Ah, those "yesterday" deadlines! Lee doesn't say whether Wharton wrote the piece, but I'm guessing a big NO. And the idea of Edith Wharton, like Casey, being at the bat, metaphorically or otherwise, is just too good.

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