By Joan Baum
In Avid Reader, an autobiographical account of his long life in editing and publishing, 85-year-old Robert Gottlieb says in a prefatory note that he “wanted to set bits of the record straight.” That usually means making sure you get there before others do who may be writing you up in their memoirs, or in a biography. It also usually means that at a certain age, confronting mortality, you want to take an overview of what you spent most of your life doing, examining how you got there and how you’d like to be remembered. And that usually means finessing misunderstandings, finding something good to say about those you clashed with – forgive, if not forget – and giving heartfelt thanks to those who stood with you in difficult times. In other words, a memoir is a premature eulogy written by oneself.
At best, it informs about a profession, pleases as a well-written narrative, generates a sense of being fair and has memorable tidbits. Did you know that Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 was originally called Catch 18, until Gottlieb renamed it? Read more