Filed under: Book news
As many of you probably already know, Quill & Quire’s esteemed editor-in-chief, Derek Weiler, passed away unexpectedly last Sunday. All of us here at the magazine knew he had had lifelong health problems, but he was always very private about them, and it is only now that we’ve learned he suffered from a congenital heart condition.
When a co-worker dies, it’s not like the death of a family member or close friend. It has a different quality, characterized chiefly by the sad, blunt realization that you didn’t know the person nearly as well as you thought you did. Over the past few days, we’ve sat numbly at our computers, scouring the Web for more info about Derek’s life outside work – Facebook photos, old blog entries, tributes from friends – and a more rounded portrait of the man has emerged. It’s been great – a revelation, really – to read so many stories of Derek’s childhood, of his school days, and of his life with Sari, the wife he was so clearly crazy about. (And for the kooky Facebook picture of Derek dancing in a hippie-freak costume at a Halloween party circa 1992, we will be forever grateful.)
The flip side of the coin, of course, is that we all spent more time with Derek over the past few years than with practically anybody else in our lives, and came to know him like family. He cracked jokes with us, goofed around, steered us through stressful days. Sometimes he got angry with us, because that’s part of being the boss, and of being family. But what we’ll remember most is what a smart, funny, gentle guy he was, and how great he was to work for. With him in charge, the office was a free-flowing symposium on the arts, and talk of his favorites – Philip Roth, The Wire, Yo La Tengo, Flannery O’Connor, The Squid and the Whale – was never far off. His enthusiasms were contagious, and if, for some reason, you had never encountered one of his personal faves, he would immediately offer to bring it in and lend it to you. He was generous like that.
If there’s one image that best captures Derek’s in-office manner, though, it is of him walking around with his miniature Louisville Slugger bat. Derek – a huge baseball fan – would brandish the comically tiny bat for tongue-in-cheek displays of editorial pique, slapping it against his palm and muttering, “Derek don’t like it!” It was how he always wielded authority: firmly, but humorously, and with a self-satirizing edge.
Ultimately, Derek was the heart and soul of Quill & Quire, and it’s hard to convey how difficult it’s going to be to carry on without him. We’ll do so, of course, but it’ll probably never be quite the same. Derek, buddy, if you’re reading this: we’re going to miss you something terrible around here.
The staff of Quill