TURNING THE PAGES: An Insider's Story of Simon & Schuster, 1924-1984 by Peter Schwed

TURNING THE PAGES: An Insider's Story of Simon & Schuster, 1924-1984

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Inside, but awfully bland: Schwed, chairman emeritus of the editorial board of S&S (or ""Essandess,"" as he most often refers to it), offers anecdotes, personality-sketches, and trivia relating to dozens of books, writers, and editors here--with only a few suggestions of the rough-and-tumble behind the publishing triumphs. First come brief, flattering profiles of Dick (""Give the Reader a Break!"") Simon, more serious and quiet Max Schuster, and their business-partner Leon Shimkin. There are evocations of the everyday office-life in the early S&S days, with pingpong matches and everyone opening orders for the crossword-puzzle books that brought the company's initial solvency. Old ad campaigns are nostalgically recalled; bright young men from Clifton Fadiman to Robert Gottlieb are saluted; there are stories about practical jokes, production-department wrangles with authors (over serial commas, capitalization, and other house-style questions). Occasionally Schwed addresses a publishing-world issue--e.g., the problems faced over the years by female editors, always ""in the position of having to go, hat in hand, to people over them to accomplish the smallest things for their authors, their books, or themselves."" The nitty-gritty of publishing business comes through here and there--in Schwed's own experiences (buying books abroad), in details on the foreign-rights marketing for the recent novel Lace. And there are small glimpses into some editorial/creative processes--a few lines, for instance, about editor Alice Mayhew's role in All the President's Men, encouraging Woodward and Bernstein to ""build up the Deep Throat character."" (At more length, there's Schwed's efforts on behalf of the unusual illustrations for Jack Finney's Time and Again.) But only in discussing the ambitious, imperious rise of latter-day S&S bigwig Dick Snyder does Schwed's chatty chronicle hint of emotional involvement (""Almost instantly I became aware of his hot breath on the back of my neck insofar as my own job was concerned"")--though even here Schwed winds up defending Snyder from his critics. And this remains more an avuncular in-house scrapbook than a strong memoir or a shrewd history--with mild, scattered rewards (the Calories Don't Count controversy, the work-habits of Hendrik Willem van Loon, the blue-penciling of John Cowper Powys) for older, eclectically well-read browsers.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1984
Publisher: Macmillan