Tuesday, April 19, 2011
R.I.P. Jeanne Leiby
Detail of the cover for the Autumn 2010 issue of the Southern Review
It is saddening and shocking to report the sudden unexpected death of a friend, writer, editor, and idea woman, Jeanne Leiby. Jeanne appeared on the scene only recently to steer the Southern Review, LSU's revered literary journal, through the choppy waters of contemporary writing and under her watch, it became suddenly a better, more vibrant thing. She and I became friends after a reading in their former offices, and over a series of quick lunches hatched ideas. Let's do a reading series! Write me an essay on that! Review this book for me! These are things that Jeanne asked me to do for her, for the Review, and for myself.
I came to realize that Jeanne was quick to do that with everyone, to throw a match at every potential fuse with hopes that something would spark up. None of the things she asked of me came to fruition, for myriad reasons, but none of that mattered, for the idea of them existed indelibly in the world, and that, if nothing else, is what a writer, what a reader, what an editor, what an idea woman does. Those ideas still hang in the air, reverberating with her nervous zeal; she was a transplanted Michiganite and her step-to-it Midwesternness offered a much needed counterpoint to the narcissistic Southern malaise.
Jeanne would call people to tell them a piece was accepted. I thought that was classy as hell.
I haven't read Jeanne's book Downriver, but I will. I haven't written that book review she wanted, but I will, even if she's no longer around to want it or to forget that she ever asked for it and ask for something else in the process. Jeanne was a civic-minded person, so as details get sorted out, I suspect there will be some sort of donation, and I'll do that too. But, I suppose the best way to honor an idea woman like Jeanne is to write something, read something, submit something, talk about something, do something and OK, Jeanne, I will.