Thursday, July 24, 2008

Joseph McCrindle, RIP

We are very sorry to hear about the death of Joseph McCrindle.

The headline on the New York Times obituary by William Grimes was "Joseph McCrindle, 85, Connoisseur of Art," and although his many contributions to the art world are probably what he is best known for, his contributions to American and British literature in the middle of the last century were also immense.

As the Times noted, he was at one time a literary agent who represented such great writers as John McPhee and Philip Roth. But, perhaps selfishly, we are most grateful for Mr. McCrindle's London-based Transatlantic Review, published from 1959 to 1977. Half-jokingly, he said he started the literary magazine as a way to promote the kind of writers whose work he couldn't sell to book publishers: writers like us.

We started reading Transatlantic Review in the mid-1960s, when it was available on larger newsstands. Often we'd buy our copy at the Eighth Street Bookshop. As the Times obit stated, "It offered an eclectic mix of knowns and unknowns -- John Updike, Harold Pinter, Anthony Burgess and Iris Murdoch among the known -- along with drawings, film criticism and interviews with writers."

We still remember the kind and generous acceptance letter we got from Transatlantic Review for a story called "Reflections on a Village Rosh Hashona 1969," which we wrote when we were only 18, in our freshman year at Brooklyn College. It had been rejected 24 times before that by other magazines.

Our story was published in issue 57, Winter 1976, along with the winning story in the Erotica Award contest by our friend Jerry Stahl, a wonderful piece about a man whose penis looks like George Washington. Finding the issue on a Manhattan newsstand, seeing that bright red shiny cover, alongside the names of famous writers like Penelope Gilliatt and D.M. Thomas, as always tickled to see the price in pounds and pence as well as dollars and cents, we bought three copies. At least one is in a box in an Arizona garage.

Transatlantic Review published only two more issues after that, a double issue, 58/59, and then the Summer 1977 issue, number 60, with a Bruce Jay Friedman interview; a John Updike essay; fiction by William S. Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Harold Pinter, William Trevor; and poetry by Iris Murdoch, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and others. Also, if we remember correctly, a wonderful story, "Promising Young Composer Dies Bizarre Death," by one of our Brooklyn College friends, Peter Cherches. (Of course at our age, memory fades, so it might have been published the year before.)

After he closed down Translantic Review, in addition to amassing his brilliant art collection, including over 2,500 drawings by old masters -- which the McCrindle Foundation will now donate to about 30 institutions in the U.S., including the Brooklyn Museum, the Morgan Library & Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum -- Mr. McCrindle continued his contributions to literature, particularly in helping younger writers. As the Times obit noted, the annual prize to promising creative writing students he funded has gone to Walter Mosley, Mona Simpson, A.M. Homes and Ethan Canin, among others.

The Times also called Joseph McCrindle "reserved and self-effacing" and said he "moved relentlessly though life, traveling constantly, moving from one project to the next..." The world will miss him.


Pete said...

Wow - that issue #11 had stories from Bowles, Yates and B.S. Johnson. Very impressive roster. Getting a story published there at age 18 was quite an accomplishment.

Richard said...

Well, I wrote it at 18. It spent 6 years getting rejections.

Pete said...

Wow again - 6 years of rejections is longer than I've been writing. Puts my own efforts in much-needed perspective.