I didn’t know what to expect of this book. It was recommended by an author-friend as a worthy read. How could editors have a life worth writing about? They are the background people who nurture a book to maturity.
Max Perkins nurtured genius. He began working for Scribner’s in New York shortly after graduating from Harvard. His genealogy is full of tough New Englanders, who forbore rather than enjoyed. His gift was connections; his talent was loyalty and the ability to shape a manuscript. Through connections, he brought the cream of the Jazz Age, the Depression, the Recovery, and WWII to Scribner’s--F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Alice Roosevelt, Thomas Wolfe, Sherwood Anderson, Erskine Caldwell, James Jones, William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings—the list goes on and on.
Perkins did not have a happy personal life—a loveless, long marriage and a stoical approach to any adversity or rejection. He did revel in his five daughters and in his mercurial clients who counted on his devotion and guidance. This is a worthy read, especially if you want to understand book development. Berg won a well-deserved National Book Award for biography.
Aghhh, the movie, Genius, starring Colin Furth as Perkins, Jude Law as Wolfe, and Nicole Kidman as Aline Bernstein—and a host of other luminaries. I could only endure one hour during which the movie agonized over the “lover’s triangle” among Perkins, Wolfe and Bernstein. Could watch no more because it would have completely trashed the memorable images from the book. Forget it.