Remembering Arnold Goodman

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Remembering Arnold

It is with utmost sadness that we say goodbye to our longtime literary agent, Arnold Goodman

Arnold and Elise Goodman, of Goodman Associates, have represented us in the world of publishing for close to 35 years.

There are many people who live in and around Ithaca, New York who are thinking of Arnold today, and for the rest of our lives, with sincere fondness, admiration, and gratitude. We are Arnold and Elise’s Moosewood Collective cookbook authors. In each of our fourteen cookbook’s acknowledgements, we’ve extolled Arnold’s and Elise’s virtues as supreme literary agents. It is so sad to be writing this final acknowledgement. Our gratitude is so not just about business.

When thanking them for the role they’ve played, and still play, in our literary life, we’ve never had to split up Arnold from Elise…such a team, such a balance of practicality, intelligence, enthusiasm, advocacy, impeccable judgment, humor, insight, and encouragement. They sometimes had to challenge us to think differently or do things differently; they never sugar coated and they never let us down. Oh yes, and do you know of any other literary agents with the confidence and courage to shepherd books, each with no fewer than six authors and a couple with as many as nineteen!

Forty-six years ago, a group of friends started Moosewood Restaurant, a small place with mismatched furniture, tie-dyed curtains, and barn boards…and not a single professionally-trained cook in the kitchen. We changed the menu at every single meal, listing the three or four offerings on a chalk board. This was a time when yogurt was a new item recently introduced in supermarkets, many of our customers didn’t yet know how to pronounce quiche, and a few bewildered customers could not believe that the whole menu was vegetarian. Tofu and brown rice were our foundational ingredients.

After a few years and a lot of regular customers, we wanted to write a cookbook to share the best of the recipes we were continually developing in the restaurant. We were naïve but hopeful. We chanced upon an annually produced book about publishing which contained a list of literary agents and their addresses, so one day, not knowing the usual procedure or proper etiquette, we sent out 150, maybe 200 query letters at once. Miraculously we got back over a hundred responses, some letters and some phone calls. The calls we had to take on our only phone, a pay phone near Moosewood’s back door. We narrowed our search to our five favorites, all in New York City, and we sent David and Susan to meet them all in one day, crossing back and forth across the city by bus. We were impressed by all of them (and although we didn’t know it at the time, a couple of them were legendary).

Once we had talked with Arnold and Elise, the choice was obvious and easy. Elise was energetic, enthusiastic, filled with ideas, and within minutes was proposing big new projects. Arnold, a gentleman with great dignity, embodied a glamorous ideal of a literary man. Both Arnold and Elise made it their business to understand who we were, what our values were, and what was going to be important to us well into the future.

Our project cannot have been a sure bet or an easy sell, yet we felt such security. We had every confidence that Arnold would represent us impeccably in the publishing world. He exuded intelligence, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Over the years, he and Elise changed the course of our lives. Their steadfast support helped us thrive. Arnold maintained a steady and clear presence all along the way, and we had deep trust in his counsel. His honesty, diplomacy, and grace eased our journey through the publishing industry. Arnold genuinely believed in our work, and his understanding of who we are as a collective of real people was precious to us.

Arnold and Elise are part of our Moosewood family. Their warmth and friendship are something we will always appreciate: meeting them in NYC for lunch, having us to dinner at their home near Hudson, their visits with us in Ithaca for book launch parties, the fun we had with them at James Beard Award ceremonies, Arnold’s spontaneous phone calls over all the years just to check in with us and to give us news of his beloved family. As generous friends, they have been role models. Their thoughtfulness during both good times and difficult times has been touching and comforting. And the books! Culinary books to inspire us, boxes of children’s books for years after the birth of Susan and Tony’s son, fiction and gardening books to ease David’s recovery from a car accident.

Our enduring memory of Arnold will always be that his laugh belied his otherwise reserved and dignified bearing. His laugh communicated spontaneous, true delight whether from irony, surprise, or affirmation of a shared experience. His dry wit and worldly-wise demeanor were awfully appealing. He had a wonderful face and kind eyes. More than one of us had a crush on Arnold! He was a mensch and we loved him.

Arnold, we will miss you.

 

Susan Harville            Wynnie Stein              Laura Branca              Nancy Lazarus

David Hirsch              Ned Asta                      Linda Dickinson         Lisa Wichman

Joan Adler                  Neil Minnis                 Tony Del Plato             Kip Wilcox

Maureen Vivino         Sara Robbins              Dave Dietrich              Penny Goldin

Jenny Wang                Eliana Parra                Michael Blodgett        Bob Love

Maggie Pitkin             Fouad Makki               Tom Walls                   Andi Gladstone

 
 
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