PaperCity Magazine

September 2017 - Houston

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126 Pulitzer-prize winning biography of de Kooning, and with Joan Didion. On landing a publishing contract. From our first meeting, Shelley and I agreed about the inspirational nature of the de Menil story. So, in 2002, a contract for a de Menil biography was signed to be published by Alfred A. Knopf [a division of Penguin Random House]. The forgotten man. From our first contacts, the de Menil siblings made it clear that John de Menil was crucial to everything their parents had accomplished. Because John died at the age of 69, on June 1, 1973, while Dominique went on until her 90th year, dying on December 31, 1997, his role had largely been eclipsed. So, very early, the focus of the book changed from a single subject to a joint biography. That meant two family histories — hers, the Schlumberger family, as well as his, the de Menils — and much more focus on their relationship and what it meant to their accomplishments. Laying the groundwork. The first few years of work on the book were spent in New York, making research trips to Texas, when possible, and working freelance for magazines. Because all of the "I SPENT MANY HOURS IN THE ARCHIVES AT THE MENIL COLLECTION, WHICH HAS TO BE ONE OF THE LARGEST PRIVATE ARCHIVES IN THE UNITED STATES."— William Middleton archives were at The Menil Collection in Houston, and many of the interview subjects, it made sense to move to Houston. Once I had settled in Houston, I soon discovered how important the move was: Understanding the city and the state has been essential to this book. The savior. In 2005, the book became a sponsored project of the Houston Artists Fund, a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt public charity that is an umbrella organization for the Houston arts community. That allowed me, working with a committee of supporters, to approach foundations and gave individuals a means of making tax-deductible donations. On funding an epic biography. Over more than 10 years, beginning in July 2005, we raised $700,000 to support the research and writing of the de Menil biography. That support allowed for research trips to many of the sites that were important to the story and provided for the hiring of research assistants, for limited periods, in Paris and in Houston. It is no exaggeration to say that this book would never have been published without the generous support of a host of foundations and individuals in Houston and in New York. On who contributed. Our lead donors are The Brown Foundation Inc, Houston Endowment Inc., and Louisa Stude Sarofim. Other major donors include the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, the Margaret and James A Elkins, Jr. Foundation, Lynn Wyatt, Nina and Michael Zilkha, Ann and Mathew Wolf, Sara Dodd, and Marion and Ben Wilcox. Grants and contributions from more than 100 foundations and individuals made this book happen. Your scholarly process. I interviewed over 200 friends, family members, and colleagues of the de Menils. Some were lengthy interviews over a period of days — like [the now late] Walter Hopps, the founding director of the Menil Collection — and many were interviewed multiple times about different subjects. The transcripts of the interviews must number close to 3,000 pages. Many of the interviews, over 1,600 pages, were transcribed by Kevin Cassidy, a former student at the University of St. Thomas, who had known the de Menils in the 1960s. Mary Jane Victor, another former St. Thomas student who worked After a decade-long journey, the edited manuscript of the de Menil biography is nearing its press date.

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