By Robert Gottlieb
A lively and revealing memoir via the main celebrated editor of his time
After modifying The Columbia Review, staging performs at Cambridge, and a stint within the greeting-card division of Macy's, Robert Gottlieb stumbled right into a activity at Simon and Schuster. by the point he left to run Alfred A. Knopf a dozen years later, he was once the editor in leader, having found and edited Catch-22 and The American method of Death, between different bestsellers. At Knopf, Gottlieb edited an incredible record of authors, together with Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Doris Lessing, John le Carré, Michael Crichton, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Graham, Robert Caro, Nora Ephron, and invoice Clinton--not to say Bruno Bettelheim and leave out Piggy. In Avid Reader, Gottlieb writes with wit and candor approximately succeeding William Shawn because the editor of The New Yorker, and the demanding situations and satisfactions of working America's preeminent journal. Sixty years after becoming a member of Simon and Schuster, Gottlieb continues to be at it--editing, anthologizing, and, to his shock, writing.
But this account of a existence based upon analyzing is ready greater than the arc of a novel career--one that still incorporates a lifelong involvement with the area of dance. it really is approximately transcendent friendships and collaborations, "elective affinities" and relations, psychoanalysis and Bakelite handbags, the alchemical courting among author and editor, the honour days of publishing, and--always--the sheer excitement of work.
Photograph of Bob Gottlieb © through Jill Krementz
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Shakespeare, yes; Milton, no. Bach and Mozart, yes; Tchaikovsky, no (that would change). Henry James, yes; Stendhal, yes; Balzac, yes. Les Misérables, no (that would change, too). Jane Austen, George Eliot, Chekhov, yes; Tennessee Williams, yes; Arthur Miller, no. Abstract art, yes; realism, no. Balanchine and Martha Graham, yes; Fred Astaire, yes; Gene Kelly, no. Metaphysical poetry, yes; Faulkner, yes; Hemingway, no. Eliot and Pound and Yeats, of course. Proust, yes—the most emphatic yes. But Gide yes, too.
But I was friendly with, though not close to, Ginsberg, who was an agreeable and unassuming young guy—I knew nothing about his poetry. My most pronounced memory of him was of my surprise when he came to see me off when I sailed for Europe on a freighter in 1951. I was even more surprised when my mother mentioned in a letter that a very nice, polite boy named Allen had gone out of his way to see her home. As I’ve suggested, it wasn’t the classes at Columbia that I found nourishing but the surround—the intense atmosphere of seriousness about literature.
He was infinitely more sophisticated than I was, but not intellectually, the way that mattered; there we were on even terms, our interests coinciding and our literary excitements mutual. Immediately that afternoon we set off together for the Gotham Book Mart, the West Forty-seventh Street bookstore of legend (“Wise Men Fish Here”) reigned over by the formidable Miss Frances Steloff, always in her electric-blue smock and with her indispensable pencil poked through her white hair. (“You,” she once snapped at me when there was no one else in the store.
Avid Reader: A Life by Robert Gottlieb