Louis D Rubin, Jr, man of letters, dies at 89

Louis D Rubin, Jr, a curmudgeonly patron of contemporary Southern writing has died. He was 89.

AP Updated: Nov 18, 2013, 00:20 AM IST

New York: Louis D Rubin, Jr, a curmudgeonly patron of contemporary Southern writing who as an author, teacher, editor and publisher helped establish and advance the careers of John Barth, Annie Dillard and dozens of others, has died. He was 89.

Eva Redfield Rubin said by telephone that her husband, who lived at a North Carolina retirement home, died yesterday, just three days before his 90th birthday.

A Charleston, South Carolina, native who switched from journalism to academia in the 1950s, Rubin for decades mentored and published Southern writers. He was among the first to write a scholarly analysis on the posthumous reputation of Thomas Wolfe, taught such future stars as Barth, Dillard and Kaye Gibbons and, through Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, published fiction by Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle, Lee Smith and many more.

Rubin himself was a prolific author who wrote novels, critical studies, histories, memoirs and even a guide for predicting the weather. He started or co-started such influential publications as The Hollins Critic and the Southern Literary Journal. Algonquin Books, co-founded in 1982 by Rubin and Shannon Ravenel, has been an invaluable resource for writers overlooked by New York editors.

In 2005, the National Book Critics Circle presented Rubin with a lifetime achievement award.

He was as much a presence in person as on the page, a case study for the word "rumpled," an impulsive yeller and selective smiler who wore hearing aids that friends swore broke down when conversation turned tiresome. Dillard, Ravenel and others would acknowledge being frightened by him at first, then coming around.

"He`s tireless, loyal, gruff and a genius, really," Ravenel once said of Rubin, who left Algonquin in 1992. (The publisher was bought out in 1989 by the New York-based Workman Press).

Born in 1923, Louis Decimus Rubin was a descendant of Russian Jews. By age 10 he had already written a play and owned a typewriter soon after. Early heroes included Ernest Hemingway and HL Mencken. He graduated with a degree in history from the University of Richmond, and worked for The Associated Press and such newspapers as the Richmond News-Leader before returning to school as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.

He quickly emerged as a keeper of the past and present. His study of Wolfe, "Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth," was an early treatise on the late novelist known for "You Can`t Go Home Again" and "Look Homeward, Angel."