A Tribute to Stanley Kauffmann


Dorothy Wickenden in TNR:

I started working with Stanley at The New Republic in 1978, when I was twenty-four and he was sixty-two. The best part of my job was proofreading his reviews. It involved no work, since we both regarded him as editorially infallible. We spent a few moments each week on the phone correcting the typesetter’s errors, then moved on to an art he relished as much as film: conversation. That is, he entertained, and I listened. There were stories about meeting Marilyn Monroe in her hotel room, about discovering Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer in the slush pile at Knopf, and about the rigor of Meryl Streep, who attended the Yale School of Drama, but was not, he admitted ruefully, one of his students there. Eventually I was invited to his apartment in the Village for drinks, with my friend and fellow editor, Ann Hulbert. Courtly and mocking, he greeted me with the sentence, “I imagined you as a little old lady with a pencil in her bun.”

Over the years, I learned more. Stanley said he had to work hard to convince Alfred Knopf to publish The Moviegoer, and to give Percy a decent advance. Knopf fired him soon afterward. Meanwhile, A.J. Liebling had just finished The Earl of Louisiana, and happened to read a review of the Percy novel, whose protagonist lived and breathed New Orleans. Liebling bought the book, and recommended it to Jean Stafford–his wife and a National Book Award judge that year. Stanley couldn’t resist gloating when it won the fiction prize. Over countless dinners he gave urbane accounts about these interactions with many of the major writers, directors, playwrights, and actors of the 20th century. He corresponded with T.S. Eliot, and George Bernard Shaw, among others. But he also loved hearing about the lives of his friends, and boasting to others about their more modest accomplishments.

More here.