I was a little rude about one of the great American authors last week…

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Here are the words of Mr. Bennett Cerf, a great publisher, a great wit, and apparently a great guy. May he smooth any heavenly feathers I ruffled in regards to William Faulkner.

William Faulkner had a firm belief that the author writes the book and the publisher publishes it. He would bring in a manuscript, and I’d say, “Bill, do you have any ideas about the book jacket and the advertising?” Bill would say, “Bennett, that’s your job. If I didn’t think you did it well, I’d go somewhere else.” The result was that William Faulkner got more attention in our office than most others, perhaps to prove to him that he was right in trusting us…

The maddening thing about Bill Faulkner was that he’d go off on one of those benders, which were sometimes deliberate, and when he came out of it, he’d come walking into the office clear-eyed, ready for action, as though he hadn’t had a drink in six months…

Bill was one of the most impressive men I ever met, Though he was not tall, his bearing and his fine features made him distinguished-looking. Sometimes he wore what seemed to be rather weather-beaten clothes, but actually were outfits that he had made to order in England. And he always took time to answer even the most trivial question. You’d say, “Nice day, Bill, isn’t it?” and he’d stop an consider it as though you’d asked him something very important…

What a lot of people don’t realize, because of the tragic elements in most of his books, is that he was a comic genius, and The Reivers proves how funny he could be. He saw all the tragedy of the Old South, but he also saw the humor. I consider him one of the great novelists in the history of American literature and I am certain that his reputation will survive for a long, long time.

At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf: Bennett Cerf, Christopher Cerf: 9780375759765: Amazon.com: Books.

2 comments

  1. George Kaplan

    Hear about the time Bennett Cerf went a trifle doolally and painted himself *blue*? He called himself Bennett Smurf! Bwahahahaha! Okay, okay, I’ll show myself out!

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