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Remembrance of James A. Mitchell

Jim Mitchell, who died last Saturday of an apparent heart attack, really connected with people, and as his publisher and friend I was graced by his great ability to express goodwill through friendship on many occasions, and in many different ways. The proposal for the book he wrote for Seven Stories, The Walrus and the Elephants: John Lennon’s Years of Revolution, arrived in the mail unagented and was read by an intern who became so enamored of the project and of Jim’s writing that she fought hard for it and won over the entire editorial department at Seven Stories. We were all kind of taken aback at first that an unsolicited proposal had been acquired, except for Jim himself, who wasn’t surprised at all.

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James A. Mitchell

As Jim’s editor, I asked a lot of him and the finished manuscript when it came in then went through four or five substantial re-writes.

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In Memory of Our Friend Don Farber

Farber

Don Farber’s bow tie intimidated me the first time I met him, probably in the late ’80s or early ’90s. Once I got past the bow tie I discovered a great human being, possibly one of the single greatest human beings to grace this earth. He wrote one of the essential textbooks on media law and intellectual property, and yet when negotiating for his most important client Kurt Vonnegut or any other client, he never went by the book, always guided by the sure North Star of his heart. Which is why so many of the seeds he planted or tended grew into strong trees and bore fruit, including our own Seven Stories. He believed in people and in art—in that order. People first. At his 90th birthday a few years back he told many jokes, mostly about himself and his own eccentric behavior. The implicit and I’m sure unintended message was that eccentric behavior will work out beautifully when it starts from the right place.

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Chekhov’s Corpse and the Case of the Refrigerated Oysters

One hundred and twelve years ago today, Anton Chekhov drank his last glass of champagne.

His wife would describe the scene years later in her journal: “Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe (‘I’m dying’). The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: ‘It’s a long time since I drank champagne.’ He drained it and lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed to call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child….”

LittleApplesChekhov passed away in Badenweiler, a small German town near the Black Forest. His body was taken back to Russia by freight train, and somehow ended up in a refrigerated car meant for oysters.

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