Alexander Hamilton, Gertrude Atherton, and John O’Hara Cosgrove

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.42.20 AMI’ve recently been reading through some letters from John O’Hara Cosgrove (link) , the editor of Everybody’s Magazine, to Owen Wister, the author of The Virginian (1902). My principal interest is Cosgrove’s connection with Frank Norris, who had worked at The Wave when Cosgrove was its editor, and his thoughts on Jack London, but this excerpt gives a good sense of what editors–or at least this editor–was thinking might sell in 1902.

In 1902, the California novelist Gertrude Atherton (today best known for her novel Black Oxen, 1922) published The Conqueror: Being the True and Romantic Story of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Macmillan and Company, 1902). By the time she republished it in 1916, the book had acquired a slightly less sensational title: The Conqueror: A Dramatized Biography of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1916).

Responding to the book, Cosgrove pitched Wister, as he often did, about participating in a series of articles “treating real men as though they were characters in fiction”:

I have just been reading Mrs. Atherton’s book on Alexander Hamilton. The form, which is really a departure, gave me a very clear impression of the subject’s individuality.  It represented a form of treatment that I have often urged using and treating real men as though they were characters in fiction.  I mean using the fiction method to project the personality of the individual.  This seems to have been done very well by Mrs. Atherton, and if we could have in the magazine a series of five-thousand word interviews with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Daniel Webster Henry Clay and their like, selecting a strenuous moment in their careers & putting in an appropriate background, it would make a capital series.  Mrs. Atherton has the Hamilton one under way. (23 July 1902)

But apparently what worked well for a “romantic story” did not translate as well into the type of fictional interview that Cosgrove had in mind:

Entre nous, Mrs. Atherton tried Hamilton for us, and turned out a mighty poor thing, which I had to return.  It was slap-dash, rather common, frivolous, and quite outside the idea—rather crude journalism, in fact.  It is mighty difficult to get that sort of thing accomplished just as it must be done. (6 August 1902)

“Mighty difficult,” indeed. This raises a question for all those who would undertake biography or speculative biography: How much more sensationalism or sentimentality did Atherton’s unpublished draft contain to be labeled “common, frivolous” and “crude journalism”?

Farewell to a position: SSAWW VP for Publications

cropped-ssaww2I’ve been VP of Publications for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers since the summer of 2008, when Karen Kilcup told me about the new position and tapped me to serve.  This summer, as of July 31, 2016,  I’m leaving the position in the capable hands of Leslie Allison as the new officers take over under the excellent guidance of our new president, DoVeanna Fulton. (Please read her President’s Message in the new issue of the newsletter; it’s full of great ideas.)

I’ll miss working with SSAWW and with the stellar officers there–Karen, Deb Clarke, Dick Ellis, Kristin Jacobson, Heidi Hanrahan, Melissa Homestead, Karen Wyler, Rita Bode, Sarah Robbins, Maria Sanchez, Carolyn Sorisio, Koritha Mitchell, Beth Lueck, Miranda Green-Barteet, the late Karen Dandurand, Jordan von Cannon, and the board members, among others.

Except for the author society web pages and my 8-year stint as Regional Chapters Chair for the ASA, this is the longest-serving professional office I’ve had.  In the summer of 2008, I built the web site based on the originals from Dawn Keetley and Karen Kilcup and created a logo (above) similar to the original one.

In 2013, I moved the site to WordPress. Instead of a static repository, the site became more nimble and informational in nature as it pushed messages out to Twitter and Facebook; also, the news site is more collaborative, so that more of us could share in the posting. I chose the most minimal (and free) WordPress theme available to minimize the load time on mobile phones and modified it to suit our SSAWW needs.

So, for those playing along at home,  here are some numbers:

  • 13 newsletters
  • 2271 followers across Facebook, Twitter, and those following WordPress
  • 700 subscribers to ssaww-l
  • about 78,036 site views last year, up from 2014’s 47,586
  • number of new books announced, jobs, calls for papers, grants, fellowships: well, a lot, many posted by other SSAWW officers, especially Kristin Jacobson

I’ll be drawing back gradually as Leslie takes over and, I hope, that’ll give me more time to post to this neglected professional blog.  Thanks, SSAWW!

 

 

Oh, W. D. Howells. If only you were right.

Reasons to support the humanities, number eleventy-trillion:

“You have often said that the novel is a perspective,” observed the other man. [Note: Stephen Crane, who was interviewing Howells.]

“A perspective–certainly.  It is a perspective made for the benefit of people who have no true use of their eyes.  The novel, in its real meaning, adjusts the proportions. It preserves the balances.  It is in this way that lessons are to be taught and reforms to be won.  When people are introduced to each other, they will see the resemblances, and won’t want to fight so badly.”

from “Howells Fears Realists Must Wait”

Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing, 1 September 2016

CAMPBELL Bitter compBitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing will be out from the University of Georgia Press in September 2016.

Here’s a brief review from the University of Georgia catalog:

“No work that I know of explores in such detail and within the context of a shared literary/aesthetic tradition the incredible number of women writers Campbell’s study covers and, at times, uncovers, resurrecting writers once considered important but then shunted aside by ideologically prescribed recanonizations. The book is important, then, not only for uncovering an extended line of women writers who constitute a tradition but for modeling the type of cultural study, grounded in an appreciation of all forms of American artistic expression, that is inclusive and therefore representative of American literary production.” (Mary E. Papke editor of Twisted from the Ordinary: Essays on American Literary Naturalism)

http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/bitter_tastes/

 

A personal history of email closings, 1988-present

DEC_VT100_terminalAn article on Mashable tells us that “best” is dead as an email closing.  Abrupt closings are now the way to go, it seems. But everything old is new again, I guess.

In 1988, when we had Bitnet addresses, closings depended on the level of formality.  For formal emails–not that there were as many academics to write to back then–I used good old “Sincerely,” like a letter. Or “Cordially.” For friends, no closing, or maybe just your name.

When we used names, we used “Dear X” for a while, and then “Hi, X.” Getting rid of that comma–which is grammatically necessary but Not Done in email, which then was “e-mail”–was a hard habit to break for me.

But you had to pay attention to what you were typing and keep it short, because the email client we used back then on those black background-and-amber-lettered VAX terminal screens (Pre-PINE) wouldn’t let you go up a line to correct a typo. There was no possibility of cut and paste. If there was a typo and you’d already gone on to the next line, you started over, if you were writing a formal message. If you were writing to a friend, the friend wouldn’t care.

Then in the early 1990s I started seeing the ones we see today: “Best,” “Best regards,” and, in one from about 1997, “All best,” which puzzled me at first until I grew to like the economy of it.

As more people sent email, the closings varied more: “Warm regards,” “Cheers,” “Best wishes,” and the now-ubiquitous “Thanks” even though no favor had been requested or rendered.

In the 2010s, people started to use “I hope you are well” at the beginning of all emails, and the signature files grew from a manageable and agreed-upon length of 4 lines to 5+ lines, sometimes with graphics.  Some started using just the closing (“Thanks,” usually) and the signature file without typing a name above it, maybe because they’d already used up all the courtesy at the beginning of the message.

And now, we’re told, “Best” is out, as is “Thanks,” because there must be fashions and fashion experts in all things, even email.

I’m still a fan of “Best” or “Thanks” because leaving just the period at the end of the last sentence seems curt.

But another very old email rule, one I internalized long ago, is that you can mimic the style of the messages you’re sent. If you don’t want to use a closing or salutation in a message to me, my reply won’t have them, either.

It won’t be strange. It’ll be 1988 all over again.