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Avid Reader by Robert Gottlieb

Avid Reader

by Robert Gottlieb

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I loved almost all of this book. AVID READER is a nearly perfect read for old book nerds like me. In the cover photo, Gottlieb looks a lot like a young Woody Allen, which is completely irrelevant, but I thought this every time I picked the book up, so ... just sayin'.

Gottlieb is probably one of the most well-read authors I have ever read. An only child of two avid readers, he learned to read by age four from his maternal grandfather reading to him, and his love affair with books continues to this day, and he is 86.

After his graduation from Columbia, Gottlieb got on at Simon & Schuster and progressed to editor. Then he took over at the very prestigious Knopf, and then to editorship of the New Yorker, then back to Knopf, where he has been ever since, now semi-retired. Along the way he has worked with some of the brightest literary lights of the past sixty years - Joseph Heller, Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Barbara Tuchman, Harold Brodkey, LeCarre, Alice Munro, and on and on, as well as a host of lesser-known writers, many of whom I have read. There is, of course, a veritable deluge of name-dropping in a memoir like this, and by God, I loved it! I felt like I was walking through a library of books I've read and loved from childhood into old age. (Gottlieb was an Albert Payson Terhune fan as a kid too.)

I could gush on about all the associations Gottlieb's stories brought back, but I won't. I just kinda wish I could sit and talk books and authors with this old guy. The only part I skimmed here was the chapter on his fascination and association with ballet. I'm probably just too dumb to appreciate that. But the books! The authors! LOVED all of that. And in his reflecting back on all of it in the final chapter, "Living," he comes up with a perfect closing line -

"And, yes, the end may very well be hard, but perhaps fate will be kind, and at least let me keep on reading for a while."

Perfect. Very highly recommended, especially for book lovers.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Jan 7, 2018 |
I enjoyed this memoir from Robert Gottlieb, editor and book reviewer. It added several books to my to-read list. ( )
  gbelik | Nov 17, 2017 |
Inside baseball. Too much of it. Names of his friends/associates keep coming like a gatling gun. How could he be so intimate with so many friends and give short shrift to his son? Didn't learn much about the process of book editing. No mention of audio books or e-books. Shoddy work. ( )
  Doondeck | Feb 8, 2017 |
I have a passion for books as does Robert Gottlieb. Avid Reader is a fantastic read. Gottlieb was at Knopf and The New Yorker and he shares his experiences which usually involved books. He was an obsessive and compulsive reader since childhood and shares those wonderful experience. Do not pass go. Go directly to your nearest bookstore. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Jan 30, 2017 |
I was vastly disappointed long slog of a book. Writers are incapable of editing their own books, Gottlieb tells us at one point. I wish he had listened to himself.

He probably edited or was responsible for most of the books I have read in my life. He clearly knows what makes for good writing, voice, as he points out (especially in memoirs) being one of the most important. But this book has no voice. It reads as if it was assembled index card by index card, linked with clumsy segues.

It is remarkably impersonal, as another reviewer pointed out. Hard to see how he has so many friends, unless his writing just obscures his real self.

Can't think he would have accepted this book if it hadn't been by himself! ( )
  bobbieharv | Jan 5, 2017 |
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By the employment of methods amounting almost to the so-called third degree, the heads of the publishers syndicate who I am under contract has finally got me to write my autobiography, a task from which I shrink from it like Pola [Negri] from a camera, yet which the doing of which I feel I owe it to my public.

-- from the introduction to The Story of a Wonder Man, Being the Autobiography of Ring Lardner
To my grandsons, Oliver and Jacob Young, in case they're ever curious about how their grandfather spent his life.

And to the memories of Nina Bourne and Deborah Rogers
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For a long time when people asked me whether I was ever going to write a memoir or autobiography, I answered that all editors' memoirs basically come down to the same thing: "So I said to him, 'Leo! Don't just do war! Do peace too!'" (author's Note)
I began as I would go on -- reading.
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The book contains numerous brief incidents about the people that Gottlieb has edited, worked with, is related to, or just met along the way.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374279926, Hardcover)

A spirited and revealing memoir by the most celebrated editor of his time

After editing The Columbia Review, staging plays at Cambridge, and a stint in the greeting-card department of Macy's, Robert Gottlieb stumbled into a job at Simon and Schuster. By the time he left to run Alfred A. Knopf a dozen years later, he was the editor in chief, having discovered and edited Catch-22 and The American Way of Death, among other bestsellers. At Knopf, Gottlieb edited an astonishing list of authors, including Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Doris Lessing, John le Carré, Michael Crichton, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Graham, Robert Caro, Nora Ephron, and Bill Clinton--not to mention Bruno Bettelheim and Miss Piggy. In Avid Reader, Gottlieb writes with wit and candor about succeeding William Shawn as the editor of The New Yorker, and the challenges and satisfactions of running America's preeminent magazine. Sixty years after joining Simon and Schuster, Gottlieb is still at it--editing, anthologizing, and, to his surprise, writing.

But this account of a life founded upon reading is about more than the arc of a singular career--one that also includes a lifelong involvement with the world of dance. It's about transcendent friendships and collaborations, "elective affinities" and family, psychoanalysis and Bakelite purses, the alchemical relationship between writer and editor, the glory days of publishing, and--always--the sheer exhilaration of work.

Photograph of Bob Gottlieb © by Jill Krementz

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 23 May 2016 13:39:40 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster writes with wit and candor about becoming the editor of The New Yorker, and the challenges and satisfactions of running America's preeminent magazine,"--NoveList.

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