On Making a Splashy Entrance

Simon Michael Bessie

While reading the obituary for publisher Simon Michael Bessie—who edited writers including Daniel J. Boorstin, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Kenneth Tynan, and Elie Wiesel—Izzy came across this passage about Bessie’s attempt to track down John Cheever, the novelist and chronicler of a vanishing WASP world:

As Susan Cheever recounts it in a memoir of her father, “Home Before Dark” (1984), Mr. Cheever had offered the novel to Random House in 1954, but the publisher turned it down. In despair, he rented a house that summer on Nantucket Island, took his family there and continued working on the novel. One day, as Cheever was staring out the window, a sailing yacht appeared in the harbor and dropped anchor. A man in white flannels and a double-breasted blazer was rowed ashore in a dinghy and announced in the voice of a literate aristocrat to the small crowd that had gathered to greet him, “I’m looking for John Cheever.”

“It was Simon Michael Bessie,” Ms. Cheever writes, “a senior editor at Harper & Row, and he had come to buy ‘The Wapshot Chronicle.’ ”

It’s worth noting that although Bessie was not himself a WASP, he clearly knew how to dress the part.

One Response to “On Making a Splashy Entrance”

  1. nancy April 17, 2008 at 1:23 am #

    OMG, what an incredible obit. From Boorsten to Solzhenisyn to Cheever. This man was not only a visionary but well dressed. An American Classic.