Another Life: A Memoir of Other People

Michael Korda, Author Random House (NY) $26.95 (530p) ISBN 978-0-679-45659-9
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 Reagan--though 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 work--which has embraced such major hits as Charmed Lives, Queenie and Power!--with 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. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
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