WRITERS AND FRIENDS by Edward Weeks

WRITERS AND FRIENDS

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Weeks has had a long, richly varied career--as Atlantic Monthly editor, as book publisher, as liberal educator/activist, as traveler; and it's all reflected, more or less, in this genial morass of anecdotes, excerpts, tributes, diaries, in-house history, and disorderly reminiscence. Don't look for anything like a shapely narrative here, then: neither chronology nor subject-matter comes together with any consistency. Don't look, either, for shrewd portraiture or fine judgments: ""Editing is the friendliest of professions""--and Weeks is more booster than observer when it comes to the writers he's worked with. But, for the skillful browser or intrepid slogger, there are rewards to be found. Weeks' otherwise dullish WW II trip to Britain features C. S. Lewis ""grubbing in his rose garden,"" the Sitwells in usual form (a later Sitwell visit includes Evelyn Waugh at full sardonic tilt), and a priceless in-transit moment: Weeks on a piercingly cold, seaplane night-flight with British economist Henry Clay, of whom he inquires--""have you ever heard of the American custom of 'bundling'?"" (""I say, that's not bad!"" says Clay the next morning.) Agnes de Mille is a standout at lunch at the Ritz in Boston (""You see before you. . . a lady whose hair is full of garbage""), as are Ved Mehta (seen in a rare pedestrian accident) and lovely Barbara Ward singing ""Wouldn't It Be Loverly""--singing, not economics, having been her first ambition. Among the writers more conventionally saluted: Walter Lippmann, Samuel Eliot Morison (""I have never known any author capable of such detachment with such profound results""), Ralph McGill, Catherine Drinker Bowen (""brave, gifted, patriotic""), Isaiah Berlin (""the Erasmus of our time""), and George Kennan. But only with Kathryn Hulme's The Nun's Story does Weeks evoke the actual give-and-take of editing. And the rest--trips to Russia and Yugoslavia, service to Harvard and the Negro College Fund, renovating the magazine, assembling the 100th-birthday issue, passing on the torch--is usually mildly interesting rather than sharply engaging, with those generous excerpts from Atlantic writers further fragmenting the proceedings. Some piquant literary history amid the profusion of proper names, then, but too unselective to provide continuous reading pleasure.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1982
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown