Monday, June 28, 2010

The Special Collections Library

When Saul Bellow split with Harriet Wasserman, the literary agent wound down her agency and closed up shop. Over the years, she shipped off her records to Duke University, to be housed in the Special Collections Library, and so her business history was catalogued and made accessible to researchers. Correspondence with the great Saul Bellow? Priceless.

Ms. Wasserman was a member of A.A.R., and had once worked at Russell & Volkening before starting off on her own, taking her existing clients with her.

The early correspondence of Saul Bellow from 1948? Even more priceless. Although it's doubtful that any stray love letters might have escaped notice and gotten catalogued by the Duke librarians. Ms. Wasserman would have kept the passion for her own memories.

But Saul Bellow left his lover for Andrew Wylie and that was the end of Harriet Wasserman as she had been.

Since that split, several of her former clients are suing her for royalties owed that she never paid them.

Bellow bid farewell and Ms. Wasserman stopped caring about her clients. She didn't push and promote in the ways that literary agents are expected to do for their clients. Worst of all, she failed to keep the account books in order and never got around to cutting the royalty checks.

Ms. Wasserman closed her agency three years ago, and it's not likely that she'll ever be able to make good on what she owes her former clients.

It's a sad tale of mental decline by a person entrusted with the finances of others. It would make a splendid novel in the Bellow tradition, a tragedy of heartbreaking scale, a story of human failings and the fall-out that poisons those on the periphery.

1 comment:

Ted Mooney said...

For more detailed information on the revolting Harriet Wasserman see:

Ted Mooney