This engaging study provides new perspectives on the lives and work of two major figures in American poetry and publishing in the second half of the twentieth century: Robert Giroux (1914–2008), editor-in-chief of Harcourt, Brace and Company and later of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and John Berryman (1914–1972), Pulitzer Prize–winning poet and Shakespearean scholar who also received a National Book Award and a Bollingen Prize for Poetry. From their first meeting as undergraduates at Columbia College in New York City in the early 1930s, Giroux and Berryman became lifelong friends and publishing partners. Patrick Samway received unprecedented access to Giroux’s letters and essays. By incorporating either sections or whole letters of the correspondence between Berryman and Giroux into this book, Samway makes available for the first time a historical account of their relationship, including revealing portraits of their personal lives.
As Giroux edited over a dozen books by Berryman, his letters to the poet were often filled with editorial details and pertinent observations, emanating from his genuine affection for his friend, whose talent he never doubted, even as Berryman endured prolonged periods of hospitalization due to his alcoholism. Giroux gave Berryman the greatest gift he could: sustained encouragement to continue writing without trying to manipulate or discourage him in any way. But Giroux also had a deep-seated secret desire to surpass the essays written about Shakespeare by Berryman, as well as the book on Shakespeare written by their mutual professor Mark Van Doren. Giroux’s volume, The Book Known as Q: A Consideration of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, was finally published in 1982. Samway’s fascinating account of a gifted but troubled poet and his devoted yet conflicted editor will interest fans of Berryman and all readers and students of American poetry.
Patrick Samway, S.J., professor emeritus of English at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, is the author or editor/co-editor of fifteen books, including The Letters of Robert Giroux and Thomas Merton (2015) and Flannery O’Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership (2018), both published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
“A fascinating, in-depth analysis of the editor who saw Berryman through the publication of all of his major works.” —Paul Mariani, author of Dream Song
“The new insights gained from bringing Giroux into play are genuinely significant. The illumination of the mid-century literary publishing scene, far beyond Giroux’s involvement with Berryman, is revelatory.” —Peter Maber, author of William Marshall
"Samway . . . charts in this revelatory literary study the close relationship between John Berryman and Robert Giroux. . . . Promising to show 'one of the most extraordinary personal and professional relationships in the history of American poetry,' Samway succeeds with a work both definitive and effortlessly readable." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“An intimate portrait of the relationship between editor Robert Giroux (1914–2008) . . . and poet John Berryman (1914–1972), whose work Giroux edited, promoted, and encouraged. . . . [Berryman’s] anguished life dominates Samway’s clear-eyed literary history. . . . A perceptive, empathetic look at a confluence of artistic lives.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"John Berryman and Robert Giroux is a compelling account of a great publishing relationship that influenced twentieth-century American poetry." —Foreword Reviews
" . . . an incredibly in-depth chronicle of the intertwining lives of two academics, beginning with their time together at Columbia in the 1930s. We receive gossip, details, and letters in their entirety. We receive a stunning wealth of research and information. We receive the kind of inside perspective that only a personal friend could bring to this history." —Front Porch Republic
"[Berryman and Giroux's] relationship is captured in all its convolutions in the fascinating John Berryman and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Friendship by Patrick Samway, S.J. The dramatic kernel in Samway's book relates to the friends' divergent paths after Columbia." —PNR