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James Gould Cozzens: A Life Apart by Matthew…
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James Gould Cozzens: A Life Apart

by Matthew Joseph Bruccoli

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James Gould Cozzens (b. 1903) is an interesting character. He was married to Bernice Baumgarten, and she is who really interests me. Bernice (b. 1902) was a literary agent--one of the best in the business at the time she was working. One of her clients was Shirley Jackson, and something that Jackson once said gets right to the heart of who Bernice was and how she worked:

Bernice was tough as nails, and Shirley repsected her. Said Shirley, "My old agent used to quit on any deal when it looked like she couldn't get as much as she wanted, and anyone would scare her, and she spent more time taking people out to lunch and asking me for news about the children than she ever did making money; but I don't think Bernice has ever taken anyone out to lunch and she has certainly never said two words to me about anything but business, and she isn't at all fond of children, and there is nothing she likes better than getting someone by the throat. I wouldn't like to have her for a sister, but I do love doing business with her."

Bruccoli did a good job on Cozzens, who is one of the least-read and least-understood of major American novelists. By Love Possessed (1957) is one of his best novels. ( )
  labwriter | Jan 5, 2010 |
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