Isaac Bashevis Who?

From The Daily Beast (hat tip to The Passive Voice):

John Glusman, vice president and editor in chief at W. W. Norton, can still remember his first job in publishing. It was the summer of 1980 and he was fresh out of grad school, working as an intern at Viking. One of his duties was to file carbon copies of each week’s typewritten rejection letters. One Friday, as he burrowed into a filing cabinet, Glusman came upon an ancient rejection letter, written back in the 1950s. The book under consideration was a collection of short stories by an unknown author—in Yiddish.

The editor, obviously displeased at having to consider such an obscure book, scrawled on the typed rejection letter: “WHO IN HELL IS I. B. SINGER?”

Answer: the writer who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.

It’s nice to see that the Official Curators of Literary Culture in New York have always been doing the same bang-up job that they are doing today.


  1. Frank Herbert, Dune was rejected 88 times. Finally published by Chilton. You know Chilton. They print car repair manuals.

    Dune won the Nebula for 1965 and the Hugo for 1966.

    • But I thought Dune actually was a car repair manual. To this day, when driving a manual transmission, I recite to myself the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Gear.

      On a slightly less silly note, Dune is just the sort of thing that you would expect the New York Literary Establishment to pass up. But a collection of artsy literary stories by a Jewish journalist living in Manhattan itself? That’s the kind of ‘prestige’ book that publishers fall all over themselves to acquire. (And indeed it was Knopf, possibly the toniest house in New York, that published The Family Moskat in English and helped the cocktail-party circuit realize that they were required to know just who the hell I. B. Singer was.)

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