Over the past thirty-five years, we had often been asked about the name “Bartleby Press.” Some people do get the obvious reference to “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville, first serialized in Putnam’s Monthly Magazine in 1853 and a few years later included in a collection of Melville stories in The Piazza Tales. Of course, not only is the company name a homage of sorts to Melville’s tale, it led to the name of our website BartlebythePublisher.com and this space, “The Reluctant Blog.”
We have now issued a Commemorative edition of Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street. It includes the exact text as published in the original and is introduced by our Publisher, Jeremy Kay. He not only why he chose the name for our publishing enterprise, but Melville’s up and down literary history.
Bartleby Press lost a member of its extended family when David McGraw died this week. You can read his obituary here in the Washington Post. He was only 59.
Dave kept our books and prepared our taxes for years. But I’m pretty sure that his heart wasn’t really into accounting. At least when I knew him.
This is not to say that Dave was not interested in numbers. He most certainly was. He loved gambling for instance. It might be more accurate to say that he loved the science of gambling. The odds and the strategy of various games of chance fascinated him. He taught me (not well) that management of the bet was crucial. I can only hope that I can soon go out and win a bundle of cash in his memory.
Dave could always be counted on to help in a pinch. More than once I called upon him in some emergency. Sometimes it required real hard physical labor, the sort that folks our age shouldn’t have to do anymore. But he was there. And in all the various crises that came up over the years, he was a steadying influence to everyone here. Even our disagreements were fairly calmly resolved.
Once, he helped us cart almost 100 boxes of books to a hotel near BWI, so that Sully Erna, the frontman for the band Godsmack could sign copies of his memoir, then just being published. The mostly young crew working here then was excited to meet the musician. Dave was excited too. He wanted to discuss Sully’s participation in the World Series of Poker.
Dave enjoyed betting sports too, even though I don’t know if he did it regularly. Here too, it was the play, not the money that seemed to thrill him.
But nothing could distract Dave from his love of his favorite teams the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins. He followed them during the season and off. Every move, every rumor caught his eye.
One other team deserves mention: the Wimbledon team in one English soccer league or another. Though the internet he was able to not only follow and even watch sometimes, but become a accepted member of their fan community. He would on occasion share some of the communications from over there.
I have to admit that nobody in our office cared at all about the comings and goings of a soccer team in the UK, but he so enjoyed the telling it was well worth listening.
And then there was politics. Dave followed the political world intensely. He was a big fan of Rush Limbaugh and other well-known radio hosts, daily followed conservative political blogs and other sites. I think he even attended a Tea Party rally or two and counted himself a supporter of Sarah Palin. He cared passionately about the direction of our country. And he was smart about it as well. I’ve often thought that if you were running for political office, David McGraw would be a good person to advise you.
In recent years, we didn’t hang out much. I can’t remember the last time we sat down and had a beer. But I’m realizing in the past few days what a fixture Dave was in our lives and how very much we are going to miss him.