Michael Korda has spent 41 years at Simon & Schuster--most of them as editor in chief--and it proves to be a front-row seat for observing book publishing's transition from a gentlemanly trade to a hard-nosed business. He chronicles that evolution with impressive perceptiveness and tearing good spirits in this juicy memoir. Korda has a novelist's gift for capturing people's personalities in a few paragraphs, and he nails everyone from bestselling fantasy mongers Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins to his boss and good friend, S&S's notoriously dictatorial publisher, Richard Snyder. But he also seems to be incapable of bearing a grudge or truly disliking anyone, so his smart, razor-sharp portraits never appear nasty, just good fun. The key to Korda's appeal is his zest for all manner of books and people, from the highest to the lowest brow, so long as they sincerely believe in what they're doing. (He's amused rather than outraged, for example, by Ronald Reagan's ability to recount with total conviction events that never occurred.) Korda gives a brief, frank account of his personal life, including a failed first marriage, but--luckily for his readers--it's clear that he spent most of his time at the office. --Wendy Smith
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers of the New Yorker will already have encountered some choice passages from this gloriously funny, charming and ultra-readable book: those that deal with Jacqueline Susann (soon to be the basis of a movie), Irving (Swifty) Lazar and two noted S&S authors, Richard Nixon and Ronald ReaganAthough neither of their books sold nearly as well as those of their editor, the present author. It is a piece of hoary folk wisdom that books about publishing don't sell, because the people most interested don't have to buy books, and the people who do buy aren't interested. If any book can give that old saw the lie, this is the one. A more candid, engaging and warmly knowledgeable survey of the past 40 years of American publishing cannot be imagined. From the time he joined the firm that was to become his life, at the end of the 1950s, Korda saw the business change almost beyond recognition, from a cozy occupation performed almost like a hobby to one where stakes were almost as high as Hollywood's and the market ruled. Korda creates for himself a persona of guileless innocence coupled with quiet sophistication, and it works wonders in his countless trenchant character studies of S&S's founding family and such colleagues as editor-in-chief Bob Gottlieb and CEO Richard Snyder. His picture of Snyder, though it does not disguise the man's less agreeable aspects, is arguably too sunny, but most people of whom he writes are as entertaining as characters in an endless comic novel. Korda even treats his own workAwhich has embraced such major hits as Charmed Lives, Queenie and Power!Awith bemusement, quite without vanity and rather as an excuse to poke fun at author tours and the perils of overnight success. Nobody who loves the book business with Korda's hopeless and enduring passion can fail to be delighted and touched by this endearing saga. Long may he edit. First serial to the New Yorker.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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