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Max Perkins: Editor of Genius

4.34  ·  Rating Details ·  811 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews

Winner of the National Book Award
and a National Bestseller...

MAX PERKINS: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg took the literary world by storm upon its publication in 1978, garnering rave reviews and winning the National Book Award. A meticulously-researched and engaging portrait of the man who introduced the public to the greatest writers of this century, Berg's biograph
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Riverhead Trade (first published 1978)
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Community Reviews

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Violet wells
Sep 03, 2016 Violet wells rated it really liked it
I read this about twelve years ago when I was enamoured with Scott and Zelda and harboured ambitions myself of becoming an editor. Max Perkins discovered Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Tom Wolfe, among others and was their editor and friend. This is a fabulous biography of a truly admirable man and editor and a wonderful period in American letters (lots of great anecdotes about Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Wolfe). Last night I watched the film Genius about Perkins' relationship with Thomas Wolfe a ...more
Mar 05, 2009 Liz rated it really liked it
I am definitely one of those people who can't not finish a book, no matter how distasteful I find it to be, if it is work of fiction. Nonfiction, on the other hand, I tend to find really fascinating but less engaging and I usually end up getting distracted by a new novel while attempting to read history, biography, philosophy or theory. A. Scott Berg's biography of Max Perkins, though, is such an insightful, lyrical, and just plain fun work that I found myself as deeply engrossed as I would be i ...more
Mar 15, 2008 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, readers, and Berg fans
Shelves: to-re-read
This biography was incredible. Berg is my favorite biographer. He made the life of a bookish editor interesting, and he not only taught me about Perkin's life, but about how an editor can forge an intense relationship with a writer, taking that writer's talent and focusing it and nurturing his writing so that what emerges is a great American novel. Perkins did this for F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, Thomas Wolf's You Can't Go Home Again, and many other classic American authors. After ...more
Nov 24, 2012 Stefanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating story that is about the authors of Max Perkins as much as it is a biography of Perkins himself. I think the book would be of interest to anyone who enjoys biography, but it's also important an important read for writers, editors, and students of writing and literature.

As for me, the nature of biography is to cover absurd amounts of information, and this biography's nature was especially complicated due to the fact that Perkins lived through his authors and so their stories must be
Mahmoud elnaeem
Oct 11, 2016 Mahmoud elnaeem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bibliography about thomas wolfe , who is genius inspired the works of many other authors and also inspired me in different way. he do incredible efforts in writing.
Unfortunately , this greatest man is not famous as deserve
Sep 15, 2016 Zelda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Masterful. Everything a literary biography should be. Plenty of supported facts to provide a skeleton and just enough speculation to round out the bony frame without bloating it with wildly improbable and exploitative conjecture. It came as little surprise to learn that A. Scott Berg was a student of Carlos Baker.

It has taken me a long time to get around to learning about the man who was instrumental to the successful careers of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. He is quietly fascinating and I was very
Dec 20, 2007 Kirk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biolovers
A great biography about one of the unsung heroes of modernist literature. Although Perkins is the most famous fiction editor in known history (sorry, Gordon Lish), little about his personal life and character was widely known before Berg's eminently readable bio. Perkins was a Victorian through and through, so he can come off as a little stodgy, but he was devoted to his writers. The famous trifecta of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe get a lot of attention, of course---though those familiar wit ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it
For years, Maxwell Perkins has lived in my imagination as an almost mythic literary hero. The Scribners editor famously worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, among others, supporting them through their struggles and gently pushing them to produce work that continues to be read and studied today.

A. Scott Berg’s biography of the man is a remarkable achievement—an intimate, impressively researched work that brings to life not only the shy editor but a score of litera
October 2016, update: Although the movie includes a Hemingway cameo and scenes with F Scott Fitzgerald, it centers too much on Thomas Wolfe. Nonetheless, this was a good, literate period piece about writing as well as book editing and publishing in the twenties, bringing the book to life. A Scott Berg, the author of the book, discusses the transformation from page to screen in an interesting special feature on the DVD.

April 2016, original comments:

A very-well written biography of Max Perkins,
May 06, 2012 Ruth rated it it was amazing
Anyone who has ever spent any time writing or editing for publication should read this book. Max Perkins was, without a doubt, the best editor of American fiction in the 20th century. This book is entertaining and insightful.
Mar 05, 2008 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Max Perkins was the Scribner's editor during the golden age of American Literature. His clients included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. This is an outstanding work, well-cited and researched. I just loved it.
Jun 28, 2013 Grace rated it it was amazing
I read this years ago and loved it. Amazing, interesting book!
I am now watching Scott Berg (author of Max Perkins) on BookTV. He is talking about his new book: "38 Nooses, Lincoln, Little Crow and the Beginning of the Frontier's End" I am anxious to get to it.
Charles Blanchard
Oct 14, 2016 Charles Blanchard rated it really liked it
I recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about the great days of publishing. The story focuses on Max Perkins' relationship with three of the best writers of their time or any time - Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The research is amazing. It is very much a human story on how this great editor moved these writers to do their best work. He did it tactfully, realizing that his input was extremely important, he did not force his opinions on them in a manner th ...more
Oct 14, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was like candy to me, with its in depth look into both publishing and an era of American history that fascinates me, the pre WWII, Depression era and on. Not to mention the inside view of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and many other great American authors, how they worked, how they were edited, how their publisher literally supported them at times.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife had an extravagant, wasteful lifestyle and money evaporated. He was always calling his editor, Max P
Sep 16, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
Anyone who loves books should read this one... for its anecdotes and behind-the-scenes glimpses of a man who is arguably the world's greatest lover of books. For insights into how some of the the 20th century's literary giants worked, how they squabbled like grade schoolers, and how ersatz father Perkins kept them all in line. For a portrait of a complex man with sharp corners who was capable of profound affection, one with misogynist tendencies who championed women authors, one with strong yank ...more
Richard N.
Mar 02, 2016 Richard N. rated it it was amazing
I tend to read mysteries and thriller fiction. The best of those keep me up at night reading, and I find myself picking them up at odd times to see what happens next. I tend to seldom read "literature", and had to go to Wikipedia to ensure that Thomas Wolfe and Tom Wolfe were different people. I do like biographies, though, and this biography was hard to put down. It is about the Scribner's editor, Max Perkins, and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald (I have read The Great Gatsby), Ernest ...more
Nov 01, 2013 Catherine rated it really liked it
Perkins, most notably, was the editor who discovered, nurtured, protected and avidly supported Fitzgerald and Hemmingway (he also mediated their belles-lettres fights). This wonderful biography treats Perkins very sympathetically and focuses on the ways in which Perkins defined and re-defined the role of an editor. While Berg's account is based on letters and other first-hand material, the biography reads almost like a novel, simple and straightforward - all the citations are at the end. It is a ...more
Jun 20, 2011 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, sympathetic account of a gentle man and excellent editor. One thing I've wondered since reading this book is if anyone has taken Thomas Wolfe's brain tumors into account regarding his rift with Perkins shortly before his death. It just seems bizarre that Wolfe would turn on Perkins the way he did. It seems to me his many brain tumors—along with his attempts to self-medicate by drinking heavily—were the culprits of his behavior. In other words, I don't think he was responsible for the ...more
Feb 14, 2013 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An essential book for anyone interested in how books were edited and published in the first half of the twentiety century, when publishing houses such as Scribners, Doubleday, Random House and Knopf were privately-owned and not merely extended tentacles of corporations only interest in the bottom line, and a handshake could literally seal the deal on a book. Perkins helped shape the books of authors ranging from Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Marcia Davenport, and T ...more
May 31, 2010 Siria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
A really interesting biography of Max Perkins, an editor most well-known now for discovering F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe—though he also edited many bestsellers of the 20s, 30s and 40s which are now forgotten. There are times when Berg's coyness in telling anonymous anecdotes, coupled with his seeming desire to excuse Perkins' sexism with sexism, makes for a slightly frustrating read. Perhaps it might also be more enjoyable for people who have an interest in Perkins' mo ...more
Jan 30, 2011 Lorraine rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book and found myself drawing it out over a period of weeks rather than tearing through like I usually do. It's such a great time-piece of this particular era of new york and publishing, I wonder what Max Perkins would be like today; if he'd be the same type of extremely devoted editor. aside from this lamentation,, I learned so much about Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, who was rather mad but had the desire to see everything he lived in prose. (I'm reading Look Hom ...more
Mar 03, 2009 Colleen rated it it was amazing
I thought the book was fascinating. Max Perkins was the editor of Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolf, and more. The book traces his relationships with these literary figures and basically tracks the writing and editing process of their bodies of work. I loved learning more about the writing/editing process; the authors; Max Perkins; the historical time in NYC. The writing is stiff and pretty bland. It's a biography, but I highly recommend it. I like it even more now that I've had time to think ...more
Richard Wheeler
Mar 16, 2012 Richard Wheeler rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book. I read it periodically. Max Perkins was the finest editor in American letters. Somehow, I associate with him, and wish I might have lived a life as accomplished as his. He nurtured the literary genius of a score of great writers, such as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wolfe, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I'm seventy-seven but wish I had been born a little earlier and had lived in this time, and edited books in the time when Perkins was stamping American literature with his insi ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Janetiokepa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who cares about the literature of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolf, Ernest Hemingway, (and lots of other famous authors) should read this book! Max Perkins was the editor at Scribner's who worked intimately with so many unknowns and truly assisted them in publishing their works. The biography is researched thoroughly and includes tons of materials from letters these individuals wrote to each other, from their journals, from conversations, etc. It's fascinating. I gained a tremendous respe ...more
May 27, 2009 Philip rated it it was amazing
Fascinating is an understatement.

While I was generally aware that writers, as artists, live passionate and interesting lives, I had no idea the level of madness involved conceiving and producing some of the greatest literary works of the 20th century. The reader will be surprised to learn about the force (Maxwell Perkins) that supported and encouraged authors such as Fitzgerald, Heminway, Wolfe, Jones, and many others.
Chris Rand
Jan 14, 2010 Chris Rand rated it it was amazing
There's no better window into the authorial lives of Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and all of the Perkins geniuses. Every word in this book is like an entree at a five star restaurant. Berg's heavy studying of the editor's and authors' lives is clear in that their personalities shine right through the prose.

I think anyone remotely interested in books would love this biography.
Feb 07, 2012 Callie rated it really liked it
If you are interested in the writing process or writers, this book is fascinating. Full of anecdotes about Hemingway, Fitgerald, Thomas WOlfe and others. Even these literary giants had feet of clay, meaning: they doubted themselves, they got lazy and distracted, they needed help shaping their writing, they wrote for money, etc. etc.
May 10, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing
Not only is this fascinating read a thorough biography of Max Perkins, but it contains detailed biographical info about his writers, especially Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe. I feel like I know all of them better than I did before.
Apr 27, 2009 Erich rated it it was amazing
The ultimate book on the editor-writer relationship played out in the land of Fitzgerald, Wolfe, and others but written from the editor's point of view. Every writer dreams of having an editor like Max Perkins.
Fiona Joseph
Jul 18, 2012 Fiona Joseph marked it as to-read
I want to read this because my good writing colleague Kathleen Dixon Donnelly has also published a book through Lulu on the great man. Look out for "Maxwell as Muse".
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“Publishing is not, of course, dependent on the individual taste of the publisher,” Perkins replied to one reader of Hemingway’s novel. “He is under an obligation to his profession which binds him to bring out a work which in the judgment of the literary world is significant in its literary qualities and is a pertinent criticism of the civilization of the time.” 2 likes
“Max said little. His essential quality was always to say little, but by powerful empathy for writers and for books to draw out of them what they had it in them to say and to write.” 1 likes
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