5 March 2014

Helen Tartar

My friend and first editor, Helen Tarter — Editorial Director of Fordham University Press and formerly editor at Stanford University Press — died in a car accident on March 4th, 2014. (Fordham UP announcement) Helen was a formative influence on my writing and career who took a gamble on my sprawling first book Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford UP, 1989) and nurtured it into print. I will always remember her support, the discipline she inspired rather than required, and the fluid, sparkling stream of her conversation (carried out in a voice so soft that I hear it in my mind whenever I reread Wordsworth’s “Nutting” and come to the line on “the murmur, and the murmuring sound”).

The following is excerpted from the beginning of the Acknowledgments in my second book (my first book “after Helen”):

I want first to thank–and honor–Helen Tartar, who is a humanities editor for the ages. She saw my previous book into press with remarkable, intimate attention to matters both intellectual and practical; supported the writing of this book with equal acumen; and was only prevented from seeing this book join the remarkable literature and theory lists she built at Stanford University Press because of a restructuring and downsizing at the press that set her aside. It is with a piercing sense of pain and irony that I am forced in my acknowledgment of Helen also to acknowledge the power of the postindustrial forces that are major themes in my book about the fate of the humanities in the age of knowledge work. Thanks to Helen for her courage, loyalty, rigor, and ferocious intellectual curiosity. I remember a crackling fireplace we sat by when she visited me in Bethany, Connecticut, during a blackout caused by an ice storm. In the morning the trees were covered in a brilliant sheen of ice–every twig and leaf. Fire and ice: these stay with me as emblems of the clarity of Helen’s editorial vision.