In the Company of Writers: A Life in Publishing

Charles Scribner, Author Scribner Book Company $22.5 (224p) ISBN 978-0-684-19250-5
When the author, heir to the now-defunct House of Scribner, became its president in 1952, he carried on the family tradition begun by his great-grandfather in managing the Manhattan-based fiefdom comprising a printing firm, bindery, publishing company and the landmark Fifth Avenue Scribner Book Store, the ``Sistine Chapel of bookselling, which never made money'' (recently acquired by Waldenbooks for its Brentano chain). Revealing, opinionated, entertaining if awkwardly organized, audacious and stuffy by turn, this anecdotal re-creation of yesterday and today in a business that now ``belongs to the entertainment industry much more than to the literary world'' will captivate readers. Taking over the firm, Scribner perceived his most pressing challenge to be destroying the ``Maxwell Perkins cult,'' putting paid to the legacy of the editor who introduced F. Scott Fitzgerald et al. to the world, by charting the house into more profitable reference-book publishing. Given pride of place in the memoir, nevertheless, are recollections of Hemingway--``working with him was rather like being strapped in an electric chair''; not neglected, either, are Scribner stars James Jones, Loren Eisley, C. P. Snow, P. D. James, and publishing notables of the stripe of Oscar Dystel, Cass Canfield, William Jovanovich. Litterateurs will fault Scribner's cursory explanations for merging the house with Macmillan (in 1984) and for posthumously publishing Hemingway's letters against the novelist's wishes; most readers, however, will take pleasure in the company of these book folk, finding them, as Scribner does, ``an agreeable fraternity.'' Photos not seen by PW . First serial to the New York Times Book Review. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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