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From the July Newsletter

Genius

……. by Gered Beeby

Based on the book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg, the film “Genius” presents the story of Maxwell Perkins during the time when he edited the works of prolific South Carolina author Thomas Wolfe.

It opens at the start of the Depression. Max Perkins is the pre-eminent editor for Charles Scribner’s Sons publishing house in New York City. Played with consummate restraint by Colin Firth, Perkins agrees to do a “quick read” of the massive manuscript from this monumentally unrestrained upstart. The read encompasses the entire book, which would eventually become Look Homeward, Angel. Having previously introduced such literary greats as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Perkins has his hands full.

Wolfe, played with brilliant exuberance by Jude Law, operates with no known boundaries to his lyrically beautiful prose. But how to convert these mountains of sheets into cogent and complete novels? The film shows these diametric opposites as they labor with each other’s objectives and inherent needs. In time the two men try to blend and gain fuller insight into the process of producing fine literature.

Filmed mostly on location and displayed in muted sepia tones, “Genius” is an unabashed art house film. This story is about writers, and the joys and agonies of writing, and has Oscar written all over it.

……. by Mardie Schroeder

“Genius” is a film that only the English could have made so artistically. Hollywood never would have considered it worthwhile to budget.

Max Perkins, editor for Scribner’s, and Thomas Wolfe, author, were both word fanatics. Perkins wanted to make things more concise; Wolfe thought every word he wrote was sacred. The contrast between calm and serene Perkins and bombastic Wolfe made for interesting viewing in what otherwise could have been slow moving, which it never was.

Perkins was the only editor to take on the task of editing “Look Homeward, Angel” which was 333,000 words long. At first, Wolfe was beholden to Perkins when the finished book became a best seller, but eventually Wolfe resented Perkins and accused him of changing so much of it that it became more his (Perkin’s) book.

Because of their mutual absorption with words, Perkins neglected his wife and five daughters, Wolfe his lover and patron. Perkins and Wolfe had an intense relationship over many years. After publication of “Of Time and the River,” Wolfe parted company with Perkins and traveled around Europe and California. After Wolfe died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis of the brain, Perkins received a letter that Wolfe wrote on his deathhbed in which Wolfe spelled out his love and appreciation for all Perkins had done for him.