In the history of the literary side of LSU Press, there is no more influential and revered figure than Louis D. Rubin Jr., who died on November 16 at the age of 89. The Press published many of his numerous books, beginning in 1953 with Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth. But Louis also founded our influential and award-winning Southern Literary Studies series and served as its editor from 1963 to 1993. Beyond that, he put the Press in touch with countless fiction writers and poets, scholars and nonfiction writers, students and readers, many of who became authors of books we published or helped us in other ways. His contributions to LSU Press and to southern literature have been enormous—and for the Press’s literary programs, truly crucial.
Among the scholarly books he authored for us are The Curious Death of the Novel (1967), Black Poetry in America (1974; co-authored with Blyden Jackson), William Elliot Shoots a Bear: Essays on the Southern Literary Imagination (1976), The Wary Fugitives: Four Poets of the Modern South (1978), and The Mockingbird in the Gum Tree: A Literary Gallimaufry (1990). We published his novel Surfaces of a Diamond (1981) and reprinted his early novel The Golden Weather (1995). Since his retirement, the Press has done two of his autobiographical books, An Honorable Estate (2001), about his years as a journalist, and My Father’s People: A Family of Southern Jews (2002).
Perhaps as significant a contribution to southern studies as his authored books are Louis’s edited or co-edited volumes. The foremost of these is The History of Southern Literature (1985), for which he served as general editor and worked with several co-editors and dozens of other scholars who dealt with individual southern writers and particular themes. Other notable edited works of his that we published include A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of Southern Literature (1969), The American South: Portrait of a Culture (1979), and Southern Writers: A Biographical Dictionary (1979; co-edited with Robert Bain and Joseph M. Flora).
Louis was also a publisher in his own right, most notably the founder of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, and his knowledge of the publishing industry often proved invaluable to LSU Press. In the mid-1990s he encouraged us to reprint well-known out-of-print southern fiction and facilitated our republication of such excellent works as his former student Lee Smith’s novel The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed and several of Ellizabeth Spencer’s novel s, including The Voice at the Back Door. These books are part of a series of reprints called Voices of the South, and Louis helped us immensely with it. He also occasionally recommended poets he thought highly of, such as Jane Gentry, author of the fine collection A Garden in Kentucky (1995) and later poet laureate of that state.
In 2002 The Southern Review published a “Writing in the South” issue in honor of Louis and centered on the various aspects of his work in the field, and it included memoirs by several of his friends, colleagues, and students. And in 2006, in Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary, edited by Joseph Flora, Amber Vogel, and Bryan Giemza—in effect a new edition of the biographical dictionary Louis co-edited in 1979—there inevitably appeared an entry on Louis himself, written by Michael Kreyling. It began, “Louis Decimus Rubin, Jr., is the master builder of southern literature as a field of academic study.” LSU Press is proud of our efforts to assist him in this endeavor for many years, and we will always consider him one of our greatest benefactors and friends.