Louis D. Rubin Jr, the teacher, writer, editor and publisher who founded Algonquin Books, has died at the age of 89. While accomplished as a writer of novels and essays, Rubin's most lasting legacy is the spotlight he shone on Southern literature through his publishing company.
Rubin began his career as a champion of Southern writing with the 1953 essay collection Southern Renascence: The Literature Of The Modern South, and its 1961 follow-up, South: Modern Literature In Its Cultural Setting, which he co-edited with Robert D. Jacobs. But his greatest contribution came in 1983, when, in an effort to publish the work of some of his students at UNC-Chapel Hill, and other Southern writers who weren't getting any attention from the New York-based publishing world, he founded Algonquin.
In the 30 years since, Algonquin has given a voice to numerous Southern writers including Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Lee Smith (Guests On Earth), Kaye Gibbons (Ellen Foster), Robert Morgan (Lions Of The West), and Jill McCorkle (whose first two novels were published by Algonquin on the same day, in the company's second year of existence). Its roster of authors also includes non-Southerners like Julia Alvarez (How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) and Yoko Ono (the upcoming Acorn). In recent years, the imprint found mainstream success with bestsellers including Water For Elephants, A Reliable Wife, and Love, Loss, And What I Wore.
Rubin retired in 1991, selling his company to Workman Publishing, which has maintained the Algonquin imprint with Rubin's original mission in mind. Rubin was not idle in retirement, continuing to publish literary criticism and short fiction until the final years of his life.