Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rejection Letter from New Directions

My father received this rejection letter from the publisher New Directions, signed by founder James Laughlin, in November, 1949. It's unusual in that Wendell wasn't trying to get published by New Directions. He wanted a job! Not only did Laughlin not have a job for him, he tried to get my father to shill for New Directions.

Well, New Directions may have needed help at the time but certainly didn't go under. They were publishing writers like Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, Anias Nin, Robert Lowry, Djuna Barnes, Wright Morris, William Carlos Williams, and Gertrude Stein. They've continued publishing experimental and advance guard (Laughlin's italics) authors such as Roberto Bolaño, César Aira, Javier Marías, Paul Auster, Patti Smith, László Krasznahorkai, and Jenny Erpenbeck among many others.

I found this letter folded into the early pages of my father's copy of Spearhead, 10 Years' Experimental Writing in America. It's a New Directions book, of course, copyright 1947. It is signed on the inside page with Wendell E Smith Christmas 1947. A gift? It's well read although the dust jacket is still there, barely hanging on. In the back of the book I found, just now as I was scanning the letter and jacket, a clipping about James Laughlin from the New York Times Book Review, August 23, 1981. He had a habit of stuffing his books, the books that he cared about, with clippings and reviews and ephemera.

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Robin said...

Dell -- This is a fascinating find. It's interesting how little has changed. Jobs are still scarce! It also gave me insight into our Dad's life and interests in 1949. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Such interesting stuff you found among your father's books and papers. When a letter or clipping flutters out from the pages, you must picture him saying to himself,
'Good idea to keep this where I can find it.'

Dell Smith said...

Yes, more interesting memorabilia and ephemera to come!

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Very cool! I Look forward to seeing more. :)