Michael Korda, Another Life: A Memoir of Other People (Random House, 1999)
Near the beginning of Simon & Schuster editor in chief Korda's gargantuan memoir (513 pages), he recalls once working for the playwright Sidney Kingsley, who bombastically informed Korda that he would be a writer whether he realized it yet or not. "What kind of writer, I don't know," Kingsley intoned in his "strange accent – stage British lightly painted over New York Jewish." "Not a very serious one is my guess."
Kingsley's early assessment of Korda – this was in the late 50's, when Korda was in his early 20's – may have been harsh, but he was essentially right. Korda is certainly an engaging writer and for a time was a practicioner of New Journalism, but he is known more widely as one of the publishing industry's pre-eminent figures, someone who witnessed sea-changes in the ways the publishing industry has adapted to – and sometimes initiated – changes in American culture and business in the 20th century. That is the story Korda purports to tell here, but his revelations on that particular score are somewhat wanting. He alludes to sweeping changes in the industry, but doesn't fully explain them. No matter – you can find cogent industry analysis in Andre Schriffin's The Business of Books (see related entry).
Regardless of Korda's self-perception of the book, a reader who wants to become more fully cognizant with publishing history will appreciate Korda's amusing and frank anecdotes of such legends as New Yorker humorist S.J. Perelman, Will and Ariel Durant (The Story of Civilization), Graham Greene, Jacqueline Susann, Dick Snyder, Jesse Jackson, Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Heller, and Truman Capote, to name a few.
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