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Sheldon Meyer

(6.8.26 – 10.9.06)

Writers in many disciplines are mourning the passing of Sheldon Meyer, the Oxford University Press editor who died Oct. 9, 2006, at 80. He published more prize-winning histories than any other editor ever, single-handedly turned the world’s oldest and stodgiest press into the leading resource for American studies, and spearheaded a revolution in black studies. His influence on jazz literature is hard to overstate.

He wasn’t the type to mind a desk and wait for writers and agents to offer ideas. Sheldon generated most of his most influential books, matching writers and subjects, nurturing them to the finish line even when it meant drawing blood from a stone. His publishing reflected his enthusiasms, which were many and constant: He was an habitué of cabarets, concerts, opera, ballet, theater, movies and sporting events, and loved nothing better than to discuss them-chuckling in recollection of especially glowing moments-and find writers to memorialize them. Few readers knew his name, yet he changed the way we think, redefining the discourse on popular culture, on the interface between the aggressive American style and the conventions of high art.

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