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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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charge. The big fight was what Dreiser's plates were worth, because he did not want B. and L. to keep the plates of his old books. First of all, a lot of them had gone out of print. There was no demand for them whatever. Dreiser was torn between vanity and greed. He wanted to get those plates as cheaply as possible but also not so cheap that it would look as though they weren't worth anything if the story got out. So he was on the horns of a dilemma, if I may coin a phrase. They began fighting about price, and then they decided to have an arbitrator to decide what the fair price was. It took them about a week of fighting to decide on the arbitrator they were going to have, and they finally agreed I would be acceptable to both sides. So, of course, big shot Cerf--I had to move into this. I guess I was flattered that they'd asked me. Dreiser would come and see me and he was always chewing at his handkerchief. He'd say, “Now, Bennett, these are very valuable books. They had no right to let them go out of print. I'm one of the great authors of America.”

I'd say, “You're telling me those plates are very valuable.”

He'd say, “Well, no, no.”

So finally we settled at a price somewhere half-way between the “bid and offer.”


Do you remember what it was?


No, I certainly do not.

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