Friday, January 6, 2017

Avid Reader

Product Details

Could there be a better title with which to begin the new year? After all, if you are reading this then the epithet belongs to you. If you give this memoir a go, keep a pad and pencil handy as you'll be writing down book suggestions throughout.

Robert Gottlieb is a joy to spend time with. He's unassuming about his position in the hierarchy of literary editing and publishing and yet he can't help but marvel at his own good fortune at being able to work with all the bright lights of 20th century authorship. What more could an English major ask for?

It's difficult to believe that Gottlieb is now in his eighties. From whence does the energy come you might ask? Traveling the world, sitting on the boards of the New York City Ballet and then the Miami Ballet, and maintaining loving, nurturing relationships with friends all over the globe, he has remarkable stamina. I was exhausted just reading about it.

Luck and opportunity found him in the right place at the right time when he landed his first job at Simon and Schuster. His qualifications for the position of editor? Avid reader. Gottlieb had the chance to work with Joseph Heller, coming up with the name "Catch-22," (as opposed to "Catch-11"), and became life-long friends with Toni Morrison. He was the first to tell the single mother of two that she could comfortably quit her day job as an editor at Random House.

He moved on to the venerable Knopf, editing several celebrity memoirs including those of Bill Clinton, Lauren Bacall, and Jessica Mitford ("The American Way of Death"). He never betrays his clients' confidences but generously praises their work ethic and impressively shares his own. This is a man who reads just about 24/7, eschewing Manhattan's social gigs, awards ceremonies, and evenings out. He prefers his wife Maria's home cooking and having friends in. Nora Ephron actually lived with them for a while (as did many others) after her high profile divorce from Carl Bernstein.

Book lovers can't help but fall in love with a fellow book lover. Gottlieb is effusive in his praise of literature, a voracious reader, and a brilliant craftsman. He'll fight his authors to the death over the placement of a comma or semicolon but forty years later they are still friends. His passion for music, the ballet, and literature shine through on every page. This book, which landed on the 2016 notables list for the New York Times, will fascinate readers, voyeurs, and those interested in the inner workings of the publishing industry.

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