Sunday, June 15, 2014

Two Jims


On June 15, 1914, after years of rejection by editor after editor, James Joyce's first book, The Dead, a collection of stories that would change the way literature was written, was finally published.  What better way of celebrating its first centenary could there be than by bringing back memories of the late Jim Turner?

Turner was editor of Arkham House and, later, founder and editor of Golden Gryphon Press. He was also the only man on earth I would deliberately keep on the phone as many hours as I possibly could. I really enjoyed his conversation and the way he thought.

One day, Jim called and began, in his customary fashion by saying, all in a rush (he was always conscious of times winged chariot in the years that I knew him), "Listen, Swanwick, I don't have time for any of your nonsense.  I just need an answer to one question and that's all."

"Hi, Jim," I said.  "I just finished writing a zombie story."

"Yeah, yeah, that's nice.  The reason I called --"

"It has a really good title, Jim."

"Good for it.  What I want to know is --"

"Don't you want to know what the title is, Jim?"

"Oh, all right!  What is it?"

"I called it 'The Dead.'"

There was a stunned silence.  Then, "You cannot give the title of the single most famous story in the English language to a zombie story!"

"Well, it was really good zombie story, Jim."

Ah, me.  I miss that guy.  Jim was a guy who held literature in the highest esteem and gave his life to its furtherance.  As did the other Jim, the guy who wrote the collection that's a hundred years old today.  Tonight I'll raise a glass to the both of them.



Matt Keeley said...

Perhaps raise another glass to Mr. Joyce tomorrow to celebrate Bloomsday?

I'm always touched when I remember that he set his great masterpiece on June 16, 1904 because that was the day he first went on a date with his wife...

(Of course then I remember that literary biographers have told us far far too much about Joyce's relationship with Nora and wonder if certain letters between them should have just remained unpublished)

Michael Swanwick said...

Kate Beaton agrees with your position entirely, Matt. She drew a comic on this very subject:

William Lange said...

I was visiting a friend in Dallas and we went to a big used book store there. The book store must of been handling the estate (well the personal library) of Sprague DeCamp. I missed out on the opening sale but picked up a few books.

One of which was In Mayan Splendor by Frank Belknap Long. After I purchased the book I noticed it had an index card enclosed inside.

The typed card read "Dear Sprague,

Here's the promised copy of in Mayan Splendor... please don't bother acknowledging receipt of this, but I'd be grateful if you would send a few words of good will and cheer to the author.

Lyda undoubtedly has already squandered the advance on this, so Belknap probably could use the encouragement!

I realized that Jim must be Jim Turner as it was an Arkham House book. It made me feel very mortal when I thought that everyone associated with the note was deceased.

I cherish that book.