Friday, September 26, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — George Plimpton, the self-deprecating author of “Paper Lion” and other sporting adventures and a publishing patron to Philip Roth, Jack Kerouac and countless other writers, has died. He was 76.

Mr. Plimpton died Thursday night at his Manhattan apartment, his longtime friend, restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, said yesterday. She had no information on the cause of death.

“I saw him the other day. He was full of energy,” said Mrs. Kaufman, who had known Mr. Plimpton for 40 years. “He was talking about a trip he took with his family to the tip of South America.”

Said author John Updike, a longtime friend: “My goodness, he was so vital, full of fun.”

Praised as a “central figure in American letters” when inducted in 2002 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Mr. Plimpton also enjoyed a lifetime of making literature out of nonliterary pursuits.

He boxed with Archie Moore, pitched to Willie Mays and performed as a trapeze artist for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. He acted in numerous films, including “Reds” and “Good Will Hunting.” He even appeared in an episode of “The Simpsons,” playing a professor who runs a spelling bee.

But writers appreciated Mr. Plimpton for the Paris Review, the quarterly he helped found in 1953 and ran for decades with passion. The magazine’s high reputation rested on two traditions: publishing the work of emerging authors, including Mr. Roth and Mr. Kerouac, and an unparalleled series of interviews in which Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and others discussed their craft.

The Paris Review remained more respected than read. The subscription base was rarely higher than a few thousand and the bank account seemed to descend at will. At one point in 2001, Mr. Plimpton reported, funds dropped to $1.16. Donations from various wealthy friends kept it going.

In 2003, Mr. Plimpton decided to write his memoirs, signing a $750,000 deal with Little, Brown and Co.

In “Paper Lion,” he documented his time training with the Detroit Lions in 1963.

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