AN HONORABLE ESTATE: My Time in the Working Press

Louis Decimus Rubin, Jr., Author Louisiana State Univ. $22.50 (216p) ISBN 978-0-8071-2732-2

Rubin, distinguished professor of English emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has authored or edited 50 books and is founder of the much respected Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. This memoir is the intelligent, often funny account of a man carving out his life as a writer in the 1940s and '50s by pursuing a career as a newspaper journalist—the only real path at the time for someone wanting to write. And so, for salaries ranging "from poor to abominable," he began to toil at papers in New Jersey, Baltimore, Delaware and Richmond, Va. Rubin submerges the reader in the inner workings of a newsroom that no longer exists in the age of computers. He details every facet of putting out a paper, from operating linotypes with the heady smell of ink, to writing features, headlines and editorials, to copyediting—all from firsthand experience. He is at his best when he deftly sketches the idiosyncrasies of those he worked with, including his brilliant, charismatic boss at Richmond's News-Leader, Jack Kilpatrick, and the assortment of unlikely hires at Staunton's News-Leader, as well as members of that species known as copy editors. What is most compelling in Rubin's honest, heartfelt memoir is his passion for writing and the struggle in his 20s as he reconciles to the fact that his desire to write is not suited to journalism. When he changes direction and goes to Johns Hopkins to teach, he finds a revelation. The dream he had of journalism unravels and he uses the threads to weave a new dream for himself based on the realization that "When I am not writing, nothing else suffices."Anyone with a nostalgic yearning for journalism's recent past, and any budding journalist eager to learn what the life was like, will be delighted with this memoir. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/06/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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