Tuesday, March 28, 2017


William McPherson, or "Bill" as I knew him, was a dear friend who I am very sad has died. We met at a dinner party in DC in the early 1970s, when I was still living there. He was the editor of The Washington Post Book World, which I told him was better than the New York Times Book Review, except for reviews of poetry books, which I thought were terrible. He challenged me to do better and sent me Ann Sexton's new book to review. I wrote a mostly unflattering piece and he put it on the front page of the Post's book section. Walking through Dupont Circle the day it came out a woman screamed at me because of the review, and another later spit at me!

Those people cared about books, and so did Bill. I reviewed more books for him at The Washington Post for years, even after I left DC. But when he won a Pulitzer for his critical writing, he came to visit me in the city just as I was giving up the only office job I'd ever had, and for less than two years, to try and make acting in movies and TV my poet's day job. He took heart from my risking that move, and with two children to support on my own, and subsequently quit his prestigious and financially secure job at The Washington Post to write his first novel, TESTING THE CURRENT. Which won acclaim (read it and you will see why), as did his second TO THE SARGASSO SEA.

Forever after, whenever we saw each other, and often in our correspondence and phone conversations (and in his inscriptions to me in his books), he would bring that up, even after living the life of a freelance writer led to his financial decline (see his obit in the Washington Post here), for which I always felt a little responsible, though I know in the end I'm not that powerful and he was a man who made his own decisions, often as unexpected as mine, which is just one of the things we shared.

Bill was a handsome, witty, highly intelligent, impressive wordsmith and, in my experience, a generous and kind person. I am so happy and grateful he got to write those novels and live the life he'd wanted to. My condolences to his daughter Jane, his grandchildren, and all his family and friends and fans.

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