Home
Search transcripts:    Advanced Search
Notable New     Yorkers
Select     Notable New Yorker
Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
Photo Gallery
Transcript

Session:         Page of 1029

B.C.S.
Interview #13
Interviewee: Bennett Cerf
Interviewer: Robbin Hawkins
New York City
January 12, 1968

Q:

I thought that maybe we would want to start out with the story of The Snake Pit today.

Cerf:

Yes.

We got a manuscript from a girl in Chicago that was extremely well written--a first novel--but about incest, and she wasn't good enough to handle as tricky a subject as that. Today, anything goes I guess, but back then, not so long ago either, incest was one of the forbidden subjects unless it was handled with great delicacy. This girl didn't quite have that skill, but she was good. One of our editors wrote her a five-page letter, telling her what was good in the book and what was wrong and that she should tackle something safer for a start and put this one away for later revision because there was a lot of very good stuff in it.

We got back a very grateful letter, saying that she never would have believed that a well-known New York publisher would write a five-page letter on a book that they were rejecting and that she would never forget this as long as she lived and that it changed her whole opinion of the publishing industry. She added that she would like sometime to show her gratitude. The letter had obviously taken an hour and a half to write.



© 2006 Columbia University Libraries | Oral History Research Office | Rights and Permissions | Help