Giving Back

14 Dec

One of the greatest pleasures for any writer who is not a cur is the opportunity to honor, or even better to gift the writers and editors who have inspired and supported him. I seem to lead a particularly charmed existence, as I’ve just had a third occasion to get a book or journal into the hands of the writer or editor who no longer had their own copy.

I learned the other day that Derek Pell, editor of the journal Not Guilty!, did not have a copy of the Absurdist Texts & Documents issue, which was probably my third or fourth publication ever as a young writer. I told Derek that I thought I might have a second copy that I could send him.

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I confirmed today that I do indeed have a spare, and Derek will once again have an issue of this great magazine he edited.

The previous two return stories are connected to a fellow named Themistocles Hoetis, which was actually the nom de plume of a fellow named George Solomos.

I first came across the name Themistocles Hoetis when I found a hardbound anthology from 1956, Zero Anthology, at The Strand bookshop. Zero was an avant-leaning literary magazine that was founded in Paris in 1949. This anthology, from the year of my birth featured a number of major writers. I found this description in an online sale offer:

Description:

(BECKETT, Samuel). ZERO ANTHOLOGY of Literature and Art. No. 8. Edited by Themistocles Hoetis. Octavo, cloth, 239 pages. Contains the first book appearance of Paul Bowles’ novella length story “The Hours After Noon” and two other contributions [Miller B24]. Also prints Samuel Beckett’s short story “The Smeraldina’s Billet Doux” [F&F 16.01]; additional contributions by Gore Vidal, Marianne Moore, Colin Wilson, Federico Garcia Lorca, Samuel French Morse et al.

Another writer in that anthology was the irreplaceable Ursule Molinaro, whom I knew. So when I next saw Ursule after buying the anthology I mentioned it to her. She remembered Themisticles Hoetis as “a very nice young man.” And she told me she didn’t have a copy. So I told her I’d give her mine. I didn’t have to think twice. She’s in the publication, so she deserves to have a copy.

Coincidentally, a year or two later, browsing an outside stand in front of a used bookstore on Ann Street, I saw a spine with the name Themistocles Hoetis. It was his 1952 novel The Man Who Went Away. It was a dollar and of course I bought it. The prose was spare, the form somewhat experimental. It was a pretty good book.

I’m not sure exactly how the subject came up, but a mutual friend had told my Themistocles Hoetis anecdotes to novelist Caryl Phillips who, it turned out, had met Themistocles in London. So, when I eventually met Caz Phillips the name Themistocles Hoetis came up, and wouldn’t you know it, several months later Caz tells me that Themistocles is coming to New York, and he doesn’t own a copy of his own novel. No way I’d let a novelist, and certainly not a septugenarian one, be without a copy of his own novel. So I arranged to meet Themistocles Hoetis at his hotel with the book.

It was then I learned that Themistocles’ real name was George Solomos. His family, he told me, had forbade him to bring shame upon the family with his writings, so he took up a nom de plume. He also told me that some years prior many of his personal effects had been lost by Greyhound in a move. To give this man back a copy of his own book, to see the look of pleasure and gratitude, priceless!

I wonder what I’d have done if I didn’t have a second copy of Not Guilty! Who has the greater claim, the writer whose contributor’s copy it is, or the editor who made it all possible? Not many people know this, but I’m a secret pushover. I think I would have sent my only copy to Derek.

Here’s a link to George Solomos’ obituary in The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2010/dec/13/george-solomos-obituary

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