Henderson, William Charles 1941- (Bill Henderson, Luke Walton)
Henderson, William Charles 1941- (Bill Henderson, Luke Walton)
Born April 5, 1941, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Francis Louis (an engineer) and Dorothy Price (a teacher) Henderson; married September 29, 1983; wife's name Genie (a writer); children: Lily. Education: Hamilton College, B.A., 1963; graduate study, Harvard University, 1963, and University of Pennsylvania, 1965-66. Politics: Independent. Religion: Independent.
Home and office—Wainscott, NY.
Nautilus Books, Plainfield, NJ, cofounder, 1970; Doubleday & Co., New York, NY, associate editor, 1972-73; Pushcart Press, Wainscott, NY, founder and publisher, 1972—; Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York, NY, senior editor, 1973-75; Harper & Row, New York, NY, consulting editor, 1975-78. Guest lecturer at Harvard University, summer, 1974, Columbia University, 1976-79, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Rochester, summers, 1978 and 1987, Princeton University, 1983, 1986, and 1987, Johns Hopkins University, 1989, and Radcliffe Publishing Course, 1973 and 1989; Library of Congress, Center for the Book, member of national advisory board, 1979; Pushcart Foundation, president, 1984-87.
PEN, Lead Pencil Club (founder).
(Under pseudonym Luke Walton) The Galapagos Kid (novel), Nautilus Books (Plainfield, NJ), 1971.
His Son: A Child of the Fifties (memoir), Norton (New York, NY), 1981.
Her Father: A Memoir, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1995.
Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2000.
Also author of The Kid That Could, 1990. Contributor to books, including Lost in Cyberspace: Essays and Far-Fetched Tales, edited by Val Schaffner, Bridge Works Publishing, 1993. Contributor of short stories and essays to periodicals, including Carolina Quarterly, Chicago Review, Ontario Review, and New York Times Book Review. The author's papers are housed in a permanent collection at the Lilly Library of Indiana University.
The Publish-It-Yourself Handbook—Literary Tradition and How-To without Commercial or Vanity Publishers, Pushcart Press (Yonkers, NY), 1973, revised edition, 1998.
The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses (annual anthology), Pushcart Press (Yonkers, NY), 1976—.
The Art of Literary Publishing: Editors on Their Craft, Pushcart Press (Yonkers, NY), 1980.
Rotten Reviews: A Literary Companion, introduction by Anthony Brandt, illustrations by Mary Kornblum, Pushcart Press (Yonkers, NY), 1986.
Rotten Reviews II: A Literary Companion, illustrations by Mary Kornblum, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 1987.
Love Stories for the Time Being, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 1987.
(With Genie D. Chipps) Love Stories for the Rest of Us, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 1994.
Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club: Pulling the Plug on the Electronic Revolution, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 1996.
(With André Bernard) Pushcart's Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections: A History of Insult, a Solace to Writers, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 1998.
The Pushcart Book of Short Stories 2002, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 2002.
Cure Your Cancer: Your Guide to the Internet, 1st-Books Library (Bloomington, IN), 2003.
Simple Gifts: Great Hymns: One Man's Search for Grace, Free Press (New York, NY), 2006.
After finding no one to publish his first novel, The Galapagos Kid, William Charles Henderson teamed up with his uncle to found their own small publishing house, Nautilus Books. Although Nautilus soon folded, Henderson launched the small-but-well-regarded Pushcart Press in 1973 with a book that he felt sure people needed: The Publish-It-Yourself Handbook—Literary Tradition and How-To without Commercial or Vanity Publishers. One chapter was contributed by Anaïs Nin, who published all her own work during the 1940s, and other chapters were written by editors, publishers, Henderson, and other self-published authors. The volume was favorably reviewed and sold better than Henderson expected; his initial cautious printing of one thousand copies soon turned into multiple reprintings.
In 1976, Henderson published his first Pushcart Press anthology, which includes poems, short stories, and essays drawn from American small publishers. According to Publishers Weekly contributor Suzanne Mantell: "The anthology has become a mini-institution on the literary landscape." Stephen Stark, reviewing the fourteenth Pushcart Prize anthology in the New York Times Book Review, called it "a testament to the way literature has survived, even flourished, beyond the high-walled island of commercial publishing." This success is due not only to the quality of writing, but the dedication of Henderson and Pushcart's many supporters. In his introduction to the 2001 anthology, Henderson thanked these supporters and took stock of his enterprise. "Pushcart has never considered itself particularly distinguished, or even literary for that matter," he wrote. "Keeping us humble have been the unceasing and opinionated contributions of over 200 contributing editors who annually nominate writers and their publications. For 25 years, their letters have arrived, a generous outpouring of support that has kept me at my desk with a conviction that Pushcart must be doing at least something right to deserve such unequivocal backing."
In his memoir His Son: A Child of the Fifties Henderson reflected on his relationship with his father and on his own childhood and adolescence in a Philadelphia suburb. Larry McMurtry wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "parts of the book are moving, and parts of it are funny, but the only parts that could be called fresh are those describing the writer's need to communicate with his silent father."
Her Father: A Memoir is Henderson's account of his life leading up to the birth of his daughter when he and his wife were in their forties. Maggie Garb, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called it a "nostalgic, sometimes funny memoir of his journey from rebellious son to loving father." Henderson wrote of his excesses, his relationship with his wife, their decision to have a child, and the difficulties with her conception and birth. Joanne Wilkinson said in Booklist that Henderson writes "with a raw candor; he's not afraid to reveal his foolishness or his spiritual hunger." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the memoir "a portrait of a doting parent and a warm, lively man."
Henderson told a contributor in Forbes magazine why he formed the "Lead Pencil Club," named for the trade of Thoreau's father, a pencil maker. He said he uses no high tech equipment and keeps his letters in a shoe box. "People are being swarmed over with machines," he said. "We're phasing ourselves out. I see it as a slow, insidious form of suicide." Henderson called the technology revolution "phony…. All they're doing is speeding things up." After a brief article ran in a local newspaper, Henderson received eight letters from people who wanted to join his club. The letters were written in pencil. When Henderson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in the spring of 1994, "this thing exploded," he said. Henderson told the Forbes contributor that he estimated that the club had two to three thousand members at that time. He said he has received letters from people who feel their lives have been ruined by computers.
Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club: Pulling the Plug on the Electronic Revolution is a collection of essays, comments, cartoons, and rants from members and well-known writers, including Dave Barry, John Updike, and Alvin Toffler. A writer for Kirkus Reviews contended that the "best essays" were written by Neil Postman, on computers and education; Clifford Stoll, on the internet and e-mail; and Sven Birkerts, on the human brain and the "Electronic Hive." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "it's good to have so much informed dissent gathered between covers."
During a period in Henderson's life when he was experiencing a great deal of stress because of problems in his marriage, the serious illnesses of friends and family, and his daughter's growing up and going out on her own, he took on a project to fight his depression. He built a three-story tower in rural Maine. Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction is Henderson's memoir of his achievement, all the greater because he used no power tools and did suffer from vertigo, which he eventually controlled as the Quaker-style tower rose to completion. A Kirkus Reviews commentator, noting that the genesis of the tower and book coincide, determined that both turn out "admirably strong and simple." "By the time his vertigo gently subsides and he nails the tar paper to the roof, readers will be cheering him on," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Library Journal reviewer Leroy Hommerding called the memoir "part personal meditation, part history, and part old-fashioned how-to."
In addition to his own tower, Henderson discussed the towers of others, including those built by poet William Butler Yeats, psychiatrist Carl Jung, and the historic roofless stone tower constructed by Winifred Lutz in Pennsylvania. Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman wrote that Henderson "succeeded not only in building his sanctuary but in reclaiming his joy in living." Newsday contributor Bill Roorbach called Tower a "modest book, a lovely long essay, certainly a towering achievement—though perhaps the gentlest, sweetest, most introspective and humblest towering achievement in the history of towering achievements."
In Simple Gifts: Great Hymns: One Man's Search for Grace, Henderson examines the significance of his favorite traditional hymns, including "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art," and "O Holy Night." He also looks at the lives of the songs' creators as well as the origins of Christian music. A Publishers Weekly critic praised "Henderson's thoughtful consideration of his life and the role hymns have played in it."
More than three decades after starting the Pushcart Press, Henderson still believes in the power and vitality of small publishers. "Small is still beautiful," he wrote in the twenty-ninth edition of his anthology. "We will not be ground under or cubicled by the national propaganda machine. That's what the small press movement has always been about. And our endurance is rather amazing…. Our revolution is here to stay, it seems, and it can have a real impact."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1987, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.
The Pushcart Prize 2001 XXV, edited by Bill Henderson with the Pushcart Prize editors, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 2000.
Booklist, October 1, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize, p. 229; September 15, 1995, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Her Father: A Memoir, p. 117; January 1, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXI, p. 822; October 15, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize II, p. 380; November 15, 1997, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Pushcart Prize XX, p. 531; November 1, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIII, p. 465; October 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIV, p. 338; April 15, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction, p. 1509; December 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXV, p. 689; October 15, 2001, Brendan Dowling, review of The Pushcart Book of Short Stories, p. 384; November 15, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVI, p. 542; January 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVII, p. 836; December 15, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIII, p. 720; December 15, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIX, p. 700; January 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of The Pushcart Prize XXX, p. 47.
Boston Globe, June 8, 2000, Cate McQuaid, "Above and Beyond," pp. E1, E4.
Forbes, December 1, 1997, "Power to the Pencil," p. S128.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1996, review of Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club: Pulling the Plug on the Electronic Revolution; February 15, 2000, review of Tower; August 15, 2001, review of The Pushcart Book of Short Stories, p. 1150; October 1, 2002, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVII, p. 1445; August 1, 2003, review of The Pushcart Book of Essays, p. 1081; November 1, 2003, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVIII, p. 1308; December 15, 2004, Gregory McNamee, "Still Pushing Carts …"; December 1, 2005, review of The Pushcart Prize XXX, p. 1266; October 15, 2006, review of The Pushcart Prize 2007, p. 1056.
Library Journal, October 15, 1998, Harold Augenbraum, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIII, p. 70; April 15, 2000, Leroy Hommerding, review of Tower, p. 96; January 1, 2001, Phillip Santo, review of The Pushcart Prize XXV, p. 108; May 1, 2003, Felicity Walsh, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVII, p. 114; March 15, 2006, Felicity D. Walsh, review of The Pushcart Prize XXX, p. 73.
Newsday, May 7, 2000, Bill Roorbach, "Building Toward Heaven."
New York Times Book Review, April 12, 1981, Larry McMurtry, review of His Son: A Child of the Fifties, p. 12; January 7, 1990, Stephen Stark, review of The Pushcart Prize 14, p. 16; November 5, 1995, Maggie Garb, review of Her Father, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, August 3, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Pushcart Prize XV, p. 63; January 25, 1991, Penny Kaganoff, review of The PushcartPrize XV, p. 53; August 16, 1991, review of The Pushcart Prize XVI, p. 46; August 3, 1992, review of The Pushcart Prize XVII, p. 59; August 30, 1993, review of The Pushcart Prize XVIII, p. 74; August 22, 1994, review of The Pushcart Prize XIX, p. 40; July 31, 1995, review of Her Father, p. 61; October 16, 1995, review of The Pushcart Prize XX, p. 44; January 22, 1996, Suzanne Mantell, "Celebrating Twenty Pushcart Years," p. 30; March 25, 1996, review of Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club, p. 74; September 23, 1996, review of The Pushcart Prize XXI, p. 56; September 8, 1997, review of The Pushcart Prize XXII, p. 58; September 7, 1998, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIII, p. 82; August 23, 1999, review of The Pushcart Prize 2000, p. 46; February 21, 2000, review of Tower, p. 71; October 16, 2000, review of The Pushcart Prize XXV, p. 49; September 3, 2001, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVI, p. 72; October 1, 2001, review of The Pushcart Book of Short Stories, p. 35; December 16, 2002, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVII, p. 48; January 12, 2004, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVIII, p. 39; January 3, 2005, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIX, p. 36; November 21, 2005, review of The Pushcart Prize XXX, p. 29; March 6, 2006, review of The Pushcart Prize XXV, p. 63; October 2, 2006, review of Simple Gifts: Great Hymns: One Man's Search for Grace, p. 40.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 29, 1989, review of Rotten Reviews II: A Literary Companion, p. 4.
Wall Street Journal, January 28, 1987, Ned Crabb, review of Rotten Reviews, p. 26.
Washington Post, March 7, 1987, Coleman McCarthy, review of Rotten Reviews, p. A23.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1997, Daniel R. Bronson, review of The Pushcart Prize XXI, p. 800; autumn, 1999, Daniel R. Bronson, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIII, p. 748; summer, 2000, Michael Leddy, review of The Pushcart Prize XXIV, p. 602; summer-autumn, 2001, Larry D. Griffin, review of The Pushcart Prize XXV, p. 160; April-June, 2003, Daniel R. Bronson, review of The Pushcart Prize XXVI, p. 108.