Another Life: A Memoir of Other People Hardcover – Apr 27 1999
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Michael Korda has spent 41 years at Simon & Schuster--most of them as editor in chief--and it proves to be a front-row seat for observing book publishing's transition from a gentlemanly trade to a hard-nosed business. He chronicles that evolution with impressive perceptiveness and tearing good spirits in this juicy memoir. Korda has a novelist's gift for capturing people's personalities in a few paragraphs, and he nails everyone from bestselling fantasy mongers Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins to his boss and good friend, S&S's notoriously dictatorial publisher, Richard Snyder. But he also seems to be incapable of bearing a grudge or truly disliking anyone, so his smart, razor-sharp portraits never appear nasty, just good fun. The key to Korda's appeal is his zest for all manner of books and people, from the highest to the lowest brow, so long as they sincerely believe in what they're doing. (He's amused rather than outraged, for example, by Ronald Reagan's ability to recount with total conviction events that never occurred.) Korda gives a brief, frank account of his personal life, including a failed first marriage, but--luckily for his readers--it's clear that he spent most of his time at the office. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
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 ReaganAthough 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 workAwhich has embraced such major hits as Charmed Lives, Queenie and Power!Awith 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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Korda gives us a rare inside look at how publishers publish. He shares with us how he got into the business, how he climbed the S&S ladder, and how he came to run the editorial department of one of the most successful houses in publishing history. He tells us hilarious and eye-opening stories of Tennessee Williams and Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins. We learn just how much work editors put into creating bestsellers. We find out who the authors are and who the writers are. If you're like me, you'll read these stories as you would a bowl of candy. You'll eat and eat until you're scratching at the bottom of the bowl for more.
I don't recommend this book without reservation, however. Michael Korda, the famous editor, could have used even a junior editor to help him dig out his story. At times, the book thuds along, caught up in Korda's telling of the history of publishing in the United States. His asides into the money side of the business -- how publishing developed from a cottage industry into a mere cog in larger multinational entertainment companies -- is numbing. Still, I soaked in these parts of his story to get to the good parts.
Korda is not a great writer, though he worked with many, and has a wonderful story to tell. Skip past the dull moments if you like, but most definitely read this book.
Another Life reveals an elitism that prevents me from enjoying the book as much as I want to. There is a persistent focus on accents, class, status, physical appearance, ethnic identity which alienates me slightly. Stereotypes such as the shoe-shining Black man, the inscrutable Chinese man, the Hispanic maid, the beer-drinking Irish man, the overbearing Jewish woman, the Mafia Italians, etc. are just too much. In this way, the reader could correctly assume that the publishing industry and the Hollywood entertainment industry have much in common.
One of publishing's latest trends is ignored - Oprah Winfrey. Oprah's Book Club has consistently influenced book sales since her book club began in 1996. In this way, several gems (Song of Solomon, A Lesson Before Dying, etc.) that were overlooked in the past came to the notice of the general public. On p.448 there is fleeting mention of the fact that her show is in Chicago.
I would have rated this book five stars except that Korda's editor should have cut the length by eliminating useless information and repetition of facts.
Most recent customer reviews
This dreadful piece of pap should be pulped. It is rife is factual errors so embarrassing one wonders if Mr. Read morePublished on April 9 2004
This book is a fascinating read and hard to put down. The reader gets a whirlwind tour through the editing side of publishing and a multitude of witty and entertaining brief... Read morePublished on Aug. 31 2001 by W. James D. Easton
I really enjoyed this pleasant and often humorous insight into the world of publishing. Korda supplies his readers with interesting and often poignant anecdotes about the many... Read morePublished on May 22 2001 by M. Troy
Michael Korda comes across as highly narcissistic in this overblown, underedited memoir. He has led a life of privilege, as he is quite pleased to let the reader know. Read morePublished on Dec 30 2000
I was surprised to find such varied reviews of this book which I consider one of the most enjoyable I've read in years, as gripping in its way as the best novel particularly for... Read morePublished on June 26 2000 by Stanley Goldstein
At times Korda rambles on and on about tortured publishing executives that none of us care about, but when he describes authors and celebrity-authors it gets good. Read morePublished on April 6 2000 by Jlarranaga
I loved this book! The stories are hilarious at times -- especially about Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Harold Robbins, and his first boss at Simon and Schuster. Read morePublished on April 5 2000 by Marc Allen
Another Life is an interesting book. It contains many gossipy, juicy facts that are fun to read, but some of them surprised me. Read morePublished on Feb. 18 2000 by Peachaggi