"When Editors Were Gods" is going on vacation for a while, so its editor (me) can work on another project. If the subject matter interests you, please feel free to poke around in the archive; there are more than 1,800 posts in all here, going back to 2008. I may add a new item from time to time and expect to be posting daily again at some point. See you then.
Sylvia Plath started work at Mademoiselle as one of 20 junior guest editors on the magazine's August college issue on this day (June 1) in 1953. Plath fictionalized this experience in her 1963 novel "The Bell Jar." Plath died in 1963, Mademoiselle in 2001.
A new biography of Plath is "American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath," by Carl Rollyson (St. Martin's Press).
Today (May 31) is the birthday of Norman Vincent Peale, preacher, positive thinker, bestselling author, and founder of Guideposts magazine, born in Bowersville, Ohio, in 1898. The first issue of his magazine, published in 1945, was all of four pages. The statue of Peale at right stands outside his Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan and was put there in honor of the centennial of his birth in 1998. I met Peale in 1985 and found him, no surprise here, very upbeat and gracious.
Today (May 30) is the birthday of Edward L. Burlingame, founding editor of Scribner's Magazine, born in Boston in 1848. Though Scribner's seems to have been primarily a literary magazine, publishing Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, Rudyard Kipling, and other favorites of the day, Burlingame also ran some notable nonfiction during his 27-year run. One example: Jacob Riis's famous expose of slum life, "How the Other Half Lives," published in 1889 and later expanded into a book. Burlingame retired in 1914 and died in 1922.
At right, Scribner's New York City headquarters at the end of Burlingame's career, as it looks today. This building is at 597 Fifth Avenue; an older Scribner Building is farther downtown, at 153-157 Fifth Avenue.
"For some incomprehensible reason, many beginners are often possessed with the absurd notion that editors steal work. To the experienced editor this is laughable. I do not believe there is a magazine in the country that would steal any part of a submitted story. Editors are absolutely honest and trustworthy. Why shouldn't they be? Is there any reason in the world why a magazine editor should steal a manuscript, face future disgrace and unlimited expense through publicity and legal redress, when he can buy all the good productions he can use at regular rates, and be on the safe side?" — Elinor Glyn, 1922. Glyn was a popular and controversial novelist and screenwriter in her day.
Before the festivities end, it's worth noting that Putnam's was not only a book publisher, but an important magazine publisher as well, producing several titles bearing its name between 1853 and 1910. Among its more famous contributions: Herman Melville's classic "Bartleby, the Scrivener."
"Never give a story away. If it is worth publishing it is worth being paid for, and to part with it for nothing injures the literary market for your fellow-writers as well as for yourself." — William Dana Orcutt, 1912.
Today (May 27) is the birthday of John Kendrick Bangs, editor of Harper's Weekly, literary editor of the old Life magazine, humorist, unsuccessful Congressional candidate, and pioneering fantasy writer, born in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1862. Despite his many careers, Bangs lived only to age 59, dying after intestinal surgery.
A biography is "John Kendrick Bangs: Humorist of the Nineties," by his son, Francis Hyde Bangs (Knopf, 1941).
"The good journalist knows that people are quick to tire, and it is important to tire ahead of them, so as to devise in good time new means of attracting their attention. Mr. Luce told a former aide on one occasion that the secret of his success was to stay six weeks ahead of the people. Five weeks ahead, and he would not be exercising his capacity for leadership, which a creative journalist must do. Seven weeks ahead of the people, and you are a prophet, and prophets are bores. And go broke." — William F. Buckley, Jr., of The National Review magazine in a piece about Henry Luce of Time magazine, among others, shortly after the latter's death in 1967.
A federal court jury awarded Senator Barry Goldwater $1 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages in his libel suit against Fact magazine on this day (May 25) in 1968. The magazine had questioned Goldwater's sanity in 1964, the year he ran for president. Included in Fact's coverage was its exclusive survey of psychiatrists, in which the majority willing to offer an opinion declared Goldwater mentally unfit to serve as president. One lasting upshot of this case was the American Psychiatric Association's Goldwater Rule, which says it is unethical for psychiatrists to pass judgment on people they have not personally examined.
Fulton Oursler, editor of Liberty, among other magazines; author of "The Greatest Story Ever Told;" and amateur ventriloquist, died in New York City on this day (May 24) in 1952. His posthumously published autobiography is "Behold This Dreamer!" (Little, Brown, and Co., 1964).