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It was in listening to Nina Auerbach speak with classic insight and animation about a New York revival of the musical, Carousel, that Dr. Jerry Singerman, humanities editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press, got the idea to ask his long-time friend to pen the first in the “occasional” series of Personal Takes editions. “I asked Nina if she’d like to write something about Rodgers and Hammerstein,” Singerman remembers, chuckling. “She said she had absolutely no interest in writing such a book, though she’d love the chance to write about her private obsession, Daphne du Maurier.” Knowing little about du Maurier save what he’d gleaned secondhand from Hitchcock movies, Singerman gave the instant green light, trusting Auerbach to launch his series with aplomb.
    And that she has. With Haunted Heiress now going into its second printing following a near sell-out of its first 3,500 copies, and with the Press’s reprints of du Maurier’s Scapegoat and The House on the Strand garnering both attention and sales, the Personal Takes series seems poised to help elevate the national standing of the Press. It is also, not so incidentally, giving Singerman the most professional fun he can recall having, as he sits in his office pairing great minds with great and unexpected subjects.
    Interested in working with authors of national standing whose books could be published anywhere, Singerman’s focus, with Personal Takes, is to create a library of works on topics “either central to tradition or eccentric, either born of high culture, or drawn from the middlebrow … whatever is ultimately animating to the author.” Already, Singerman has lined up the well-respected Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin—a thinker he describes as having brought a new critical mode to Jewish studies—to write about the Talmud. Carolyn Heilbrun, the “doyenne of feminist criticism” and Auerbach’s first true mentor during her student days at Columbia University, has signed on to write about Clifton Fadiman, Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling—the three male scholars who somehow gave Heilbrun room to become the leading public figure she now is. And Andre Aciman, professor at Bard, contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and elsewhere, and author of the memoir Out of Egypt, is at work on a deeply personal book about why he has long been attracted to the interiority and secrecy of the 17th-century French novels that he teaches.
    But it’s not just writers writing about books or criticism that Singerman sits in his office considering, calling up, pursuing. As one who himself spends much time thinking about architecture and public spaces, Singerman is busily laying the groundwork for a series that will also include meditations on paintings and the visual world. “I’d like to open this up completely,” he says. “There are all kinds of fascinating ways that we could go.”
    Hugely optimistic about the series’ possible future and impact, Singerman says he has much to thank Auerbach for. “Without Nina saying yes, and launching this series with us, we may well not have gotten the depth of enthusiastic response from other authors and readers that we’re now getting,” he says. “Working with Nina on du Maurier was a lot of fun; I caught her enthusiasm for a writer I had not paid much attention to before. I began to read du Maurier books, such as The Scapegoat, began to understand why this writer some critics dismissed as a lightweight so haunted Nina’s imagination, and why she was ultimately so important.”
    Besides, Singerman says, he’s now truly thinking out of the box, breaking through the traditional confines of strictly academic publishing, as all truly inspired editors finally must.

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