In his remarkable memoir, at once frank, audacious, canny, and revealing, Michael Korda, the author of Charmed Lives and Queenie, does for the world of books what Moss Hart did for the theater in Act One, and succeeds triumphantly in making publishing seem as exciting (and as full of great characters) as the stage.
Another Life is not just an adventure--the engaging and often hilarious story of a young man making his career--but the insider's story of how a cottage industry metamorphosed into a big business, with sometimes alarming results for all concerned.
Korda writes with grace, humor, and a shrewd eye, not only about himself and his rise from a lowly (but not humble) assistant editor reading the "slush pile" of manuscripts to a famous editor in chief of a major publishing house, but also about the celebrities and writers with whom he worked over four decades.
Here are portraits--rare, intimate, always keenly observed--of such larger-than-life figures as Ronald Reagan, affable and good-natured but the most reluctant of authors, struggling with his "ghosted" presidential autobiography; Richard Nixon, seen here as a genial, if bizarrely detached, host; superagent Irving Lazar, pursuing his endless deals and dreams of "class"; retired Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, the last of the old-time dons, laboring over his own version of his life in his desert retreat; Joan Crawford, giving Korda her rules for successful living; and countless other greats, near greats, and would-be greats.
Here too are famous writers, sometimes eccentric, sometimes infuriating, sometimes lost souls, captured memorably by someone who was close to them for years: Graham Greene, in pursuit of his FBI file and a Nobel Prize; Tennessee Williams, wrestling unsuccessfully with his demons; Jacqueline Susann, facing and conquering the dreaded "second-novel syndrome" after the stunning success of Valley of the Dolls; Harold Robbins (who had to be guarded under lock and key and made to finish his novels), struggling to keep the IRS at bay from the deck of his yacht; Carlos Castaneda, at his most sorcerously charming, described--at last--in detail, as he really was, by one of the few people who knew him well; not to mention Richard Adams, Will and Ariel Durant, Susan Howatch, S. J. Perelman, Fannie Hurst, Larry McMurtry, and many, many more.
Parts of this book that have appeared in The New Yorker over the years have brought Korda great acclaim--the chapter about Jacqueline Susann has been made into a major motion picture. Here at last, entertaining and provocative and always hugely readable, is the whole story--a book as engaging and full of life as Korda's highly acclaimed memoir of his family, Charmed Lives, about which Irwin Shaw wrote: "I don't know when I have enjoyed a book more."
- Random House Publishing Group, December 2011
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