Max Perkins: Editor of Genius
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Max Perkins: Editor of Genius

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  369 ratings  ·  71 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...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Riverhead Trade (first published 1978)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 904)
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Liz
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
Stef
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...more
Ellen
Mar 15, 2008 Ellen rated it 5 of 5 stars 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
Lise
This biography, by the masterful biographer, A. Scott Berg, is the best biography I have ever read. Ever. And I have read innumerable biographies, of everyone from film celebrities to historical figures and everything in between, but especially literary biographies. Maxwell Perkins was an editor of genius during the heyday of NY publishing. His roster of authors included, among others, Marjorie Kinan Rawlings, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. While exploring the life of th...more
Grace
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.
Suzanne
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.
Ruth
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.
Karen
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...more
Jennifer
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
Kirk
Dec 20, 2007 Kirk rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Stacy
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
Catherine
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
Siria
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
Philip
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
Lorraine
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
Colleen
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
Janetiokepa
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
Richard Wheeler
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
Philip
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
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.
Callie
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.
Scott
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.
Erich
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.
Peggy
I wonder if Wolfe, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway would have books in print without their close relationship with this legendary editor. This memorable biography offers advice to editors and authors.
Thom Kahler
If you want to get perspective on the superstar writers of the early 20th Century, don't miss this outstanding overview about the editor who worked with the top talents of the era.
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".
Marta Foster
Very important book for me. My favorite biography of all time. Validated me as an editor. Have read it twice. Makes me feel verrrrrrrryyyy smart.
Brigitte
This was a very interesting take on a man who had a hand in publishing many noted authors. I liked it best when it moved around between the different personalities, because people like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe were hard to handle in large doses.

Some quotes:
Hemingway, in fact, who spoke of the rich. “I am getting to know the rich,” he declared. Whereupon Molly Colum topped him, saying: “The only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.” Bested by a wom...more
Kendra Recht
I had to read this for a class, and although generally I wouldn't have picked it up, I found it a decent read. The author was very thorough, and I found Max Perkins to be very compelling as a person. Perhaps the best parts of the book -- as a writer and a fan of some of the authors mentioned in the biography -- are when the author discusses the writing processes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wolfe, and others.

I do have to say that the author seemed to be a little too enamoured of Perkins; up until...more
Henry Sturcke
To realize this grew out of the author's senior thesis at college is to wonder what I've been doing with my life, but so be it. There's a bit of irony in reading such a big book about a man who strove to stay out of the limelight, preferring that the books he edited and their authors (Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wolfe, to name just a few) get the attention. He had a Puritan's work ethic and belief in the value of suffering, coupled with a belief that nothing in the world could matter as much as a wel...more
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