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Book Review

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John Berendt is a resident of Syracuse, N.Y. In 1961, after graduating from Harvard College, where he was the editor of the Harvard Lampoon, Berendt was appointed as an associate editor of Esquire Magazine. He left Esquire in 1969 to write for television, initially for David Frost and then for Dick Cavett. From 1977-79, he was editor of New York magazine. Subsequent to that he worked as a free-lance writer and wrote a monthly column for Esquire.

Berendt began shuttling between New York and Savannah in 1985, accumulate material for his first and at this point, the only book. Savannah got its first hint of things to come when the author had his first public “Midnight” reading in February 1993, at the Beach Institute. He read the chapter “Mister Glover Walks His Dog.” The book was published in January 1994. Berendt sold the film rights two months later for $200,000 plus 3 percent of the net earnings.

Berendt first traveled to Savannah in the early 1980s, when he grasps that he could fly there for a three-day weekend for the price of “a paillard of veal served on a bed of wilted radicchio” [p. 24] in one of New York’s trendier restaurants. During the consequent eight years, his visits became more regular and extended, until he was spending more time in Savannah than in New York. Part of the appeal, Berendt says, lay in the city’s penchant for morbid gossip: “People in Savannah don’t say, ‘Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on her coat.’ Instead, they say, ‘Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on the coat that her third husband gave her before he shot himself in the head.” (Entertainment Weekly 52)

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