Louis Rubin was a mentor, friend to generations of writers

November 18, 2013 

The plaudits offered by writers for Louis Rubin – the professor, editor, writer, genius and friend who died Saturday – have been voluminous, enough perhaps to fill a book for, say, Algonquin Books, the company he co-founded. In his nearly 90 years, Rubin the teacher inspired students on several campuses, including UNC-Chapel Hill, where he remains a legend.

Though Rubin was well-known to the university community and to many citizens from all walks of life, the highest praise for him comes from some of the North Carolina writers he nurtured. Novelists Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle and Lee Smith counted him a close friend and mentor and often, editor, whether they were writing for his company or not.

Indeed, Rubin thought of his students as “students for life,” one former pupil said.

Rubin lived a colorful life, indeed, one that found him serving in the Army in World War II, getting advanced degrees from Johns Hopkins, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and Hollins College and then landing in Chapel Hill as an English professor in 1967. He was known to be gruff, witty, pointed in criticism and proud as a papa of his writers who succeeded, and there were many.

Stuck on an idea, suffering from block or just in need of encouragement, it was to Louis Rubin they turned for advice. Rubin, through Algonquin (his co-founder was Shannon Ravenel), gave many North Carolina writers a start in the business, and most of them never forgot.

Nor will they ever.

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