What It Feels Like to Go To War Over A Comma
Colin Firth and Jude Law are in a new movie about celebrated book editor, Maxwell Perkins.
BY Charles P. Pierce | Apr 19, 2016 | Film & TV
We shall end the day on an up note. (Up, note! Up! Good boy!) One of the best biographies I've ever read was Scott Berg's brilliant, National Book Award-winning account of the life of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Scribner's who was responsible for bringing out the best work in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. (Did you know The Yearling won a Pulitzer? I sure didn't.) He also edited Thomas Wolfe, and the story of that relationship is the best part of Berg's great book. There is a picture of Wolfe in the book, standing next to the original manuscript of Of Time and the River. The manuscript is contained in several orange crates. Perkins and Wolfe went to war with each other over every comma for over two years before the book finally came out. I try to send a copy of that picture to every editor with whom I work.
Anyway, there is joy in writer's Nerdtown because, at the end of June, a movie made of Berg's account of the relationship between Perkins and Wolfe is coming out. Called Genius, it has a monster cast including Colin Firth as Perkins and Jude Law as Wolfe, with Laura Linney as Perkins' wife, Louise, and Nicole Kidman as Wolfe's muse, Aline Bernstein. (Guy Pearce is in there as Fitzgerald and Jimmy McNult…er…Dominic West as Hemingway.) I am a bit curious, even given the film's Brit lineage, about why Linney is the only actual American cast in this most American of stories. Nevertheless, this is an awesome clip of Perkins and Wolfe, wrestling in a bar over one line in one paragraph of what was then a 5,000-page manuscript. And the full trailer:
"No, no. Cut the Wordsworth."
I'm going to be first in line to see it. OK, so there won't be a line, but I'll be there nonetheless.
From: Esquire US.