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Gilbert Rogin Resurfaces

A literary star's fiery work gets re-released — 30 years after he stopped writing cold.

Rogie's novels What Happens Next? and Preparations for the Ascent — which together constitute an extended narrative about a marriage and its disintegration — were long ago deaccessioned from public libraries. Happily, in mid-September they will be republished in a single volume by Verse Chorus Press. "Conjoined twins," Rogie calls them.

He himself has been called wry, introspective, visionary, meddlesome, persnickety, generous, crazy, curious, capricious, restless, passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and perpetually bewildered — in short, an editor. At SI, he was all of the above.

Rogie was also as obsessively compulsive as he was compulsively obsessive. No matter where he was, he had to swim at least a mile every day. Once, while staying at a motel in Riverside, California, he awoke to discover that the pool was being drained. He dashed to the deep end, lowered himself in and frantically did his laps as he and the water slowly sank and the walls steadily rose above him. Rogie's knees scraped the bottom as he made his final turns, but he completed his cherished mile.

A fiercely independent thinker, Rogie never hesitated to express his opinions to anyone at any time. Still, he preferred to edit copy in the isolation of a men's-room stall he alternately dubbed "the Can," "the Canorama" and "the Canorama-Plus." Editorial meetings were sometimes conducted while he lay on the floor of his office and uncorked loud, percussive farts. Once, while a couple of researchers and I huddled around his desk, he blurted out: "I went to the doctor this morning. He said my testicles are unusually small." The researchers stood in awkward silence, which I awkwardly rushed to relieve: "Well, I don't think so," I piped up.

Eccentricities aside, Rogie was a meticulous editor, lavishing the sort of attention on a manuscript that writers treasure. Or at least that most writers do. In the days before stories were edited on computers, Rogie would often leave wrathful comments in the margins of stories he didn't care for. Alexander Wolff, the SI senior writer, remembers writing "in desperate hope to avoid prompting an 'Ugh!' scribbled in red pencil. I wish I'd been old enough to truly appreciate what it meant to be able to write for him."

Rogie himself is finally old enough to appreciate Jacqueline Duvoisin, the former SI golf photographer whom he married in April after a 37-year courtship. He has reached an age at which he can savor his good fortune. "I've had a pretty good life," he says. "In many ways, an extraordinary life. No one else has succeeded at both editing Sports Illustrated and writing short stories for The New Yorker."

He adds, in a melancholy coda: "It wasn't until recently that I learned all I had to do at The New Yorker was ask for a different editor."

Franz Lidz, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated from 1980 to 2007, is the author of the childhood memoir Unstrung Heroes (1991), the urban historical Ghosty Men: The Strange But True Story of the Collyer Brothers (2003) and the golf memoir Fairway to Hell (2008).

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