RAMBLINGS ON REPUTATION
In this day and age, it seems writers have to fight merely to have their writings become an actual book. We have a few famous friends whose latest works have yet to see print, either on the printed page or in e-book form.
We suppose that fame is a notoriously fickle mistress, literary fame no less than any other kind. And we are set to think about this truism by the appearance of the Library of America’s selection of the stories of Sherwood Anderson, a writer we had not thought about for years: Larry since 1958, when a student at Rice University; Diana since 1971, a student at Eastern New Mexico University.
The Library of America is right to republish Anderson, because he had his place in American fiction. He was a modernist sort of the old school, who might have influenced Theodore Dreiser and the young Ernest Hemingway, writers who were better than him.
William Faulkner, who was a lot better than Anderson, said Anderson was the father of his generation of writers. Ernest Hemingway, in “The Green Hills of Africa,” did even better by Mark Twain, mentioning that all American literature comes from “Huckleberry Finn.” Both were correct.
In our time, look how quickly fame goes: who talks of Norman Mailer now, or Gore Vidal, or Saul Bellow?
Or, looking a little closer to home, there’s Larry, author of about forty-one books, thirty of them novels, of which at most two are much read. It boils down to “Lonesome Dove,” although maybe now and then someone might look into “Terms of Endearment.”
Of course there are plenty of deserving writers who never have a reputation, who slip under the radar of public attention. These two, both laudable, might stand for hundreds: David Stacton and Max Crawford. Both wrote interesting books but are little known today.
Stacton’s superior novel, “Judges of the Secret Court,” about the Lincoln assassination and a study in character of the Wilkes brothers, is still worthy of a serious read. Max’s “Lords of the Plain,” a singular novel about the destruction of the Comanches on the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) in Texas is as good as any action novel written today, and a favorite of President Reagan. Max Crawford was an old friend of ours; we last saw him in a bar in Livingston, Montana. Not long afterward, Max lost his mind. Sadly, he passed away in late 2010.
The Library of America might do well to consider resurrecting authors like Max Crawford and David Stacton for present–and future–generations of readers.
–Larry and Diana
Good to see David Stacton discussed here. Those interested in reading more about him and his books can go to
(a Times Literary supplement review of several of his novels recently reissued by Faber & Faber)
(an article by Richard Kelly, the Faber editor who supervised the reissues)
“Judges of the Secret Court” is now out in a New York Review Books edition, after being long out of print; critical introduction by this commenter. And also — there is always a sort of trough of reputation just behind the present moment, where the writers of just yesterday are sunk; you have to wait a few years to see who re-emerges. LoA seems hot on the trail of these.
While playing on the internet the other day, checking out the movie, “Dr. Strangelove,” I came upon one of the screen writers, Terry Southern. One of his cousins, was my all time favorite teacher. He taught me in 8th grade, Looking through Terry’s stuff, that good old boy from Texas, a little older than Larry, wrote a novel called, “Flash & Filigree.” Any connection?