Michael Korda has been at the heart of the book business both as an editor-in-chief of Simon and Schuster and as a best-selling author. For over 40 years he has been on the inside of American publishing, from the time when it was perceived as a gentleman's occupation through the show-business-driven '90s, from the time when editors were the premier decision-makers to today's accountant-dominated industry. Max Schuster once told Korda, This is commerce, you see, as well as culture.
Although Another Life is written as a memoir, Korda's emphasis is on the people he's worked with over the years. Presidents and royalty, great writers and unknowns have all benefited from Korda's editing. And we benefit by Korda having such a good memory and a talent for storytelling. From the '60s to the '90s, Korda documents the publishing approach to creating bestsellers, finally concluding, "The celebrity autobiography was well suited to the growing symbiosis between books and television. Give the reader a break, was Dick Simon's dictate to every editor at Simon and Schuster."
Korda applied this wisdom to the books he edited, but also to this book he's written for us now. The stories flow. He drops celebrity, publishing, and writers' names as we would those in our own office, for his office really did see all those noted people. His anecdotes convey both the positive and the less-than-sterling behavior of those he worked with. He also offers lots of book trivia, including the tidbit that Catch-22 was originally titled "Catch-18," until it was discovered that the new novel from Leon Uris was called Mila-18.
This is a fun and fascinating look into the business that generates all those books we read.
George Cowmeadow Bauman is the co-owner of Acorn Bookshop in Columbus, Ohio.