As a graduate student, Michael Mewshaw overheard his girlfriend propositioned by James Dickey, served as chauffeur and drinking companion to William Styron, and under George Garrett’s direction impersonated a Playboy fiction editor on television. So began a remarkable literary life in which Mewshaw not only published more than a dozen books but also met and befriended author celebrities at home and abroad. In his unblinking but fair-minded memoir, Mewshaw grants us the sizable pleasure of passing time with some of the twentieth century’s finest and most interesting writers.
Mewshaw describes poignant episodes and painful lessons, including his complex relationship with Robert Penn Warren and Eleanor Clark. But his memoir is also filled with humorous events: mistaking Carlos Fuentes for James Jones’s handyman, being tricked into babysitting Anthony Burgess’s precocious son, and receiving publishing advice from safari-garbed pulp novelist Harold Robbins. Mewshaw recounts visits with Paul Bowles in Tangier and brief collisions with the likes of Mary McCarthy, William Gaddis, and Italo Calvino. He traces his enduring friendships with Graham Greene, Pat Conroy, and Gore Vidal, limning these authors as few have seen them.
Vivid and original, this book shimmers with Mewshaw’s talent as a reporter and travel writer and benefits from a novelist’s distinctive voice and flawless instinct for what makes a situation sad or important, arresting or just plain funny. Deeply personal and quietly revealing, Do I Owe You Something? will appeal to anyone who has ever yearned to write or to meet the men and women who do. It is both a chronicle of literary friendships and the tale of a writing life with all its heartbreak, joy, and peculiar rewards.
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