Books by Louis D. Rubin

MY FATHER’S PEOPLE by Louis D. Rubin
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"A family album so deftly and perfectly done—with not an instant of longueur—that not only do the people come alive, but so do their time and place as Rubin again proves himself one of the finest chroniclers of the American past."
Another intelligent and companionable book from Rubin (An Honorable Estate, 2001, etc.), a family story "to try to understand who my father's family were, and what they meant for and about me." Read full book review >
THE HEAT OF THE SUN by Louis D. Rubin
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Veteran man of letters Rubin (Small Craft Advisory, The Mockingbird in the Gum Tree, both 1991, etc.) offers a tale of love and graft in early 1940s Charleston that's redolent of old novels and faded photographs and no less appealing. The prose is stately, even stilted at times, and the story old-fashioned in its gentility, but the characters Rubin creates and the portrait he draws of his native Charleston are full-fleshed and vivid. Over the course of a year, the war, which will transform the city into a major naval base, is only a distant noise, but already the local congressman and his cronies are busy pursuing profitable if questionable land deals in anticipation of a boomdeals that will be discovered by rookie reporter Mike Quinn, who landed a job on a Charleston newspaper after graduation so he could be near his fiancÇe, Betsy Murray, the daughter of one of the nefarious land developers. While Mike becomes increasingly unhappy with Betsy, who seems to have been using him just to get back her old love, another more successful love story is unfolding on the campus of Charleston College. Here, middle-aged English teacher, bachelor, and new boat-owner Dr. Rosenbaum realizesafter a number of revealing incidents, including a disastrous boat trip to nearby islands to observe turtlesthat he is in love with Sara Jane, the college librarian. The couple marry at Thanksgiving, and not only survive the havoc wreaked by a new faculty appointment at the college but play cupid, too, as they introduce the now-free Mike to the eminently more suitable Polly. A final chapter tells us what happened after the war, a wrap-up that merely enhances the pleasures of the read. Literate period charm: a poignant reminder of what now seems an age of innocence. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Nov. 19, 1991

From the vantage of his mid-60s, critic, writer, and retired teacher Rubin (The Mockingbird in the Gum Tree, p. 997) offers a pleasantly rambling memoir about his lifelong romance with boats and about the building of what he suspects will be his last one, the wooden-hulled 24-footer Algonquin. As a young boy in Charleston, S.C., who lived on a river near the sea but couldn't swim a stroke, Rubin tacked together his first leaky skiff and tasted the romance of free movement on the water. Rubin never did learn to swim—a failure about which he's got some typically funny and modestly exploratory things to say—but from that time on he was never without a boat, or far from one. Entering retirement, and having gotten his children through college, he's now able to afford a boat that's an end-of-life equivalent of that childhood skiff—a craft at last that he can design and have built exactly the way he wants it. The result is the sturdy and unpretentious Algonquin, modeled after the harbor workboats that infatuated Rubin as a boy, and her construction from keel up (the boat is named for the publishing company of which Rubin is founder, and also for a coastal liner his father once took passage on) gives the author occasion to reminisce about his lifetime of boats before this one, with conversational side trips into books, places, the meaning of boats and travel, and even—by means of bits of family history that make up some of the most readable pages of this readable book—the psychology of risk-taking and the emotional roots of Rubin's constant but often impractical love of water and boats. Though maybe not casting its lines to quite the same historical breadth as Witold Rybczynski's The Most Beautiful House in the World (1989), this offers itself as a worthy and natural companion to that other andante and evocative memoir of the building of something much loved. Read full book review >
THE MOCKINGBIRD IN THE GUM TREE by Louis D. Rubin
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 18, 1991

Veteran teacher, writer, and editor Rubin (The History of Southern Literature, 1985, etc.) offers up a collection of essays on American literature that at their best—which is most of the time—have a refreshing authority and appeal. Least persuasive are Rubin's attempts to find the elusive ingredient (if there is one) that's unique to Southern literature; in his essays on Faulkner, for example, he's eloquent on the genius of the author's achievement in fiction, but less commanding on what makes him ``Southern.'' When Rubin takes up topics for their own sake, however, rather than to support an inherited thesis, he scores one discerning and gratifying success after another. ``The Mockingbird in the Gum Tree'' shows how the vernacular style (after Mark Twain) finally made American literature not merely European- imitative but ``able to say what it thinks.'' Effortlessly blending criticism with his own experiences as a young man, Rubin clarifies the success and the failure of Thomas Wolfe; both sears and honors the once-influential writer and critic Bernard DeVoto; and creates a memoir and evaluation of Robert Penn Warren that one wishes wouldn't come to an end. Without cant, ideology, or high-tech jargon, Rubin takes up the world of American letters and argues wonderfully for the life that's in it—in showing the idealist's despair under H.L. Mencken's crabby surface (``The Mencken Mystery''); in taking Alfred Kazin to task (this side idolatry) for his New York parochialism (``Alfred Kazin's American Procession''); in showing Joseph Epstein how to be fruitfully negative about literary culture instead of just programmatically so ``(Mr. Epstein Doesn't Like It''); and in defending the humane legacy of the New Criticism against the doctrinal ravages of what we now call post- structuralism and deconstructionism (``Tory Formalism, New York Intellectuals, and the New Historical Science of Criticism''). A biographical memoir closes the volume. Its roots in the soil, astute criticism that won't stoop to abandon literature for theory. A book for anyone, say, who seriously wants to become an American writer. Read full book review >