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Max Perkins: Editor of Genius Paperback – June 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; 1st Riverhead trade pbk. ed edition (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573226211
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573226219
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The man who invented the modern profession of book editing finally got his due, 31 years after his death, when this revelatory biography appeared. A. Scott Berg's detailed explication of Maxwell Perkins's work on the manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and a host of other important American writers shows how much the Scribner's editor contributed to their books, all the while maintaining that he only helped his authors find the best in themselves. This 1978 National Book Award winner is a thorough, carefully considered account of a seminal period in American publishing.

About the Author

A. Scott Berg graduated from Princeton University, where his senior thesis on Maxwell Perkins received the Charles William Kennedy Prize. He spent the next seven years expanding that thesis into Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, which became a national bestseller and won the National Book Award. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he has also published the international bestseller Goldwyn: A Biography.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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I found this classic in the library the other day and what a treat it was to read.
KellieinKansas
Maxell Perkins was not only the editor behind the novels of Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, but also each's best friend.
olingerstories
Berg does a terrific and subtle job of painting these larger than life characters, allowing their own letters to speak for them.
T. Weed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By J. Gifford on January 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Max Perkins: Editor of Genius is one of the best non-fiction titles I've read in a long time, and will likely be one of the best books I'll ever read. Berg (with the help of his own editor) truly is a genius: he pulls us directly into the story, introducing us to Scribner's Max Perkins at the zenith of his editorial career, then plunges us into his first acquisition -- F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and Damned -- before taking us, methodically, through Perkins's life. An intrepid biographer, Berg tells us only what we need to know about Perkins's early life, getting to the good stuff: his discovery of Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe and his work with Ernest Hemingway. We also find out about Perkins's work with other remarkable authors, including Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (The Yearling), S.S. Van Dine (the Philo Vance mysteries), and Arthur Train, creator of the mythical DA Ephraim Tutt. I laughed out loud at the story about how many believed that Tutt existed after the publication of his "autobiograhpy," complete with photos.
We learn of Perkins's patient relationship with the frustrating Thomas Wolfe, a mammoth talent and physical specimen who could not contain his own enthusiasm. Berg suggests that, as Perkins discovered, Wolfe wasn't writing "books," he was writing one book, which would have encompassed thousands of pages if he had not died early -- a profound insight into the heart and soul of a dynamic author.
We learn much of Papa Hemingway as well, including some insights into the macho author's home life. Elements of Hemingway's unpublished fiction suggest that the bullfighting fan, fisherman, and big game hunter might have enjoyed switching gender roles in bed with one of his wives.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you are an admirer of F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, Thomas Wolfe, Earnest Hemingway, Marjorie Rawlings; basically any significant American writer of fiction during the first half of this century--buy the book. Here's how I would put it: If those authors could send ONE, just one posthumous request for you to purchase a particular book, "Perkins: Editor of Genius" would be my sincerely expected choice. Why? Because he wasn't just the "editor of genius": he was their friend. Maybe in some cases like Mr. Wolfe's, the only REAL friend of a lifetime. Fitzgerald wrote in his last years, " Max, you are the only person who has never lost faith in me." Even after Scott Fitzgerald's too short existence, Max was a warrior for a reputation which he confidently predicted would survive the fads of that time. This is a study for those of us who can only regret never meeting him, a study in accepting the short-comings of others with understanding; and demanding the best from ourselves. Words are cheapened by their use in describing Max, because their cousins are seen so often where the object is so less deserving, but buy the book. Mr Berg paints a wonderous, living picture, whose thousand words I believe venerable Perkins would have approved--if somewhat sheepishly.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
Max Perkins was the conductor of the most outstanding literary orchestra ever assembled. He orchestrated each players performance into a sound of America that still plays. The players were from all segments of our society, male, female, protestant, catholic, mid-west, south,east coast, loners, extroverts, introverts, warriors, lovers; a spectrum of background, all from whom Max Perkins could whittle out classic literature. His love of writing and writers was his primary concern; financial success of the book, while important, was not his ultimate priority. There were times he allowed writers to get books out of their system, which he believed might not be successful, because he knew that the writer had to get by that story before they could write their best work. Intuition yes, but absolute understanding of each writers strengths and weaknesses. He gave himself to writing and our country's literary legacy reached it's summit with his stable of writing talents. A.Scott Berg in his own way has written a classic biography about a classic editor who edited classic writers. It was the golden age of writing and editing, a time before television and sales completely dominated the art of language expression.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Susan J. Bybee on May 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
I had a hardcover copy of this book for years, and I let it get away from me. When I found the paperback, I jumped on it and devoured it. What a wonderful friend and editor Perkins was! He had the unerring sense of knowing HOW a story (novels or biographies) should be well-told. A. Scott Berg seems to have followed his advice to the letter. I'm looking forward to reading Berg's other biographies.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Weed on November 4, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully written book, very informative and inspiring for authors, editors, agents and anyone else involved or interested in publishing. Berg does a terrific and subtle job of painting these larger than life characters, allowing their own letters to speak for them. He shows remarkable restraint and good taste and yet has created a book that is enriching and very difficult to put down. Highly recommended!
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