DEAR DONALD, DEAR BENNETT: The Wartime Correspondence of Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer
"Will Random House be any fun at all as a 'big business' instead of our very personal venture?" wonders Klopfer in a 1944 letter to his fellow Random House founding partner Cerf. Many have wistfully asked similar questions since, and their nostalgia for "golden age" publishing will be piqued by this collection of letters Cerf and Klopfer exchanged during World War II. Klopfer joined the Air Force in 1942, at the age of 40, and became an intelligence officer based in England. Cerf, three years older, remained stateside and ran the show from the publisher's New York office. The two had worked closely together since they had bought Modern Library in 1925 and founded Random House two years later. During the war they wrote to each other frequently, exchanging opinions on manuscripts and trading news of colleagues and friends. Cerf keeps Klopfer posted on print runs, paper shortages and dinner parties, while Klopfer periodically breaks off the breezy shop talk with sobering reports of casualties and loneliness. Those looking for a literary tell-all will be disappointed: while the tone here is sometimes gossipy, readers will probably not recognize the names, or even many of the titles mentioned. Nor is there much detail about Klopfer's tour, presumably because the information was classified. What does emerge in these letters is a touching portrait of the authors' friendship. They signed their letters "Love," and allowed themselves good-natured ribbing, apparent generosity and open affection. How many co-CEOs today do the same? (On sale Mar. 5)
Forecast:See the PW Interview with Random editor Loomis (this issue); Loomis will make a six-city tour to promote the book. Random is publishing it as part of its 75th anniversary celebration; expect the punditocracy to respond, along with many Modern Library collectors who will recognize Cerf's name, if not Klopfer's.
Release date: 03/01/2002