Cover Stories: Norman Mailer tributes; Richard Yates' jacket quotes; celebration of Rupert Christiansen's Once More With Feeling

By The Literator
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The Independent Culture

Among the tributes to Norman Mailer this week was one by Philippa Harrison, his British publisher for more than two decades. Writing in the trade weekly Publishing News, she remembered a man who was "funny, affectionate, wise". But what was most telling was her recollection of editing Mailer. Having acquired Tough Guys Don't Dance in 1984, she decided that its "dénouement needed work" but, having not yet met Mailer, she put her concerns to his New York editor, the legendary Jason Epstein. The response was a mix of outrage and hauteur: did she not realise that as a "Great American Writer" Mailer should not be challenged? Harrison backed off, but when she met the author in London a few months later she told him, at the end of a congenial dinner, fuelled by Dutch courage, what she had wanted to do. There was a lengthy silence, then Mailer leaned in very close. "Do not ever hold back again", he commanded.

Jackets of Richard Yates's novels are adorned with quotes by the likes of Dorothy Parker and Tennessee Williams. Richard Ford calls him "too little appreciated". Yet, since his death in 1992, Yates's novels have been hard to track down, even in the US. Now Vintage is to begin publishing them in the UK, starting next month with A Good School and Revolutionary Road, the latter soon to become a movie directed by Sam Mendes and starring Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet. Vintage feels it is an honour "to have him join the ranks of great American writers".

The 27 November is a date for the diaries, as Short Books is inviting us to sing in celebration of Rupert Christiansen's Once More With Feeling, a collection of favourite hymns and carols. Fifteen numbers are promised, with Ian Hislop compering and Richard Ingrams taking a turn on the organ at St James's Church, Piccadilly at 7.30pm. Tickets are £4 for its restoration appeal.

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