Skip to content

tribute: working with Philip by Jerret Engle

Notes on Philip

For someone who really had so much to say, who loved the sound of words and

loved to list them, load them on, luxuriate in their sounds, rhythms, nuances,

who loved the names of things and the regional and myriad permutations  of a

good adjective- for someone so alive to words, Philip used them sparingly when

he spoke.   (Pause)  With large, thought-filled spaces.   In-between.

Though i grew up in the midwest and was not unexposed to western slow-talkers

and the like, many years in New York had wound my speech pattern to a much

higher speed.  While not always sustainable, I aimed for a rhythm  and speed

that gave the illusion of conviction and  that something essential was being

imparted, even, and perhaps most importantly, when it wasn’t..  While verbal

relentlessness was not altogether unhelpful to me in my job as a book editor at

a House full of highly distinguished bullshitters, it did make it difficult for

me to speak with Philip on the telephone.   Or in person.  I was always rushing

in to fill a non-existing gap, derail a thought or to helpfully add a word he

wasn’t actually searching for.   This would lead to another pause, as Philip

considered the most polite way to either ignore me and continue on course or

derail my non-sequitor for later consideration. 

“…..Philip?”  I would sometimes say at this point.  Though he was not remotely

the type to just give up in disgust and wander off, on the phone some part of me

was always fearing that had just happened.

“E-yeah.” he would answer patiently.  As I type this it does not seem entirely

impossible that he was messing with me, maybe just a little.   But he remained

unflappable, and I shut up and listened. 

At times I had to prepare others from my world for inter-actions with him. “He

has a lot to say, ” I remember explaining to the publicity department at Dutton,

“if you wait.”   ( You can hardly blame them for skepticism, as this was hardly

ever the case. ) ” Read the book, I finally said, you’ll understand.  And they

did .

That’s the great thing, really.  After they read the book, they totally

understood.   I think of Philip as a one man Slow Talk movement: like the Slow

Food-ers inspiring others to enjoy, celebrate and savor- but in his case the joy

is words, subtexts, rhythms and those most meaningful spaces that fall in


In his Boston years, moonlighting as a museum attendant, he liked to say he was

“one who Attends”.  But  I get it now, the patient, quiet efficiency.  The space

in time for processing, reflecting.  And always taking notes.

Jerret Engle

Philip’s editor on


more tributes