Saturday, 13 May 2017


My obituary of Jean Stein is up at the Guardian online; you can link to it here. It will appear in the paper paper sometime in the future. It is pretty much as I wrote it; with some small deletions, and reorganised somewhat to deal with her books chronologically. I had preferred to leave the third until the end, because it seemed to me that the completion of that book might have signaled something in terms of her depression which culminated in her suicide. But the paper removed my reference to her depression, and mentioned the suicide only in passing, which is policy. I had written that she jumped from her balcony; to me the image was one of extreme despair, given her long bouts with depression, and the completion of her last book said something crucial about Jean Stein.

A few other small things: Jules Stein's MCA grew first by representing Guy Lombardo; by the time they moved to Hollywood they had more than half of all the bands in the country under contract. The connection with Ronald Reagan is important, and I had mentioned that. Reagan, as head of the Screen Actor's Guild, basically sold the union out, which was great news for the studios and Lew Wasserman, Stein's successor as president of MCA, and Reagan's own agent; see Dan Moldea's book Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA And The Mob.

I would have loved to have more time to examine Jean Stein's childhood, as she does in her book. And I would have liked to delve further into the 'poor little rich girl' theme which runs through the latter two books. I had mentioned that William Faulkner was 56 when the 19 year old Stein had her affair with him, to me that explained a lot about the interview he gave her, as well as about the interview landing her a job with the Paris Review. Her salon in New York is fascinating in itself, especially those she remained close to--Joan Didion being the most telling.

It was especially nice for me to be able to mention her grace with the magazine Grand Street, which remains one of my favourite, and one of the finest, places where my poetry has appeared. It was a great magazine, and its art coverage was fantastic; a lovely landing place for poems about Franz Kline. And it was good of the Guardian to include mention of her two daughters, both of whom followed in her footsteps, so to speak, particularly Katrina vanden Heuvel, who publishes and edits The Nation.

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