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Another Life: A Memoir of Other People

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From world leaders to Mafia dons, from Hollywood stars to the literary world's most eccentric writers, the notable and notorious alike have entrusted their life's work to Simon & Schuster's preeminent editor, Michael Korda. In this masterful memoir, Korda reveals the unforgettable cast of characters and outrageous anecdotes behind four decades of blockbuster publishing, bringing us face-to-face with dozens of larger-than-life Richard Nixon, who maintained his "presidential" persona long after his public life was over; Joan Crawford, whose autobiography reflected a life she would have liked to have lived but did not; Joseph Bonanno, the retired Mafia don who'd do anything to keep from being killed by the reviewers.

And in a revelatory account that reads as compulsively as fiction, Another Life paints a vivid picture of publishing's glitterati, including Jacqueline Susann, who liberated women's fiction--and terrorized a publishing house, and Tennessee Williams, who nourished his genius on four-course vodka lunches. A veritable Who's Who of stage, screen, and letters, Another Life is the deft interweaving of publishing at it most fascinating--and storytelling at its finest.

544 pages, Paperback

First published April 27, 1999

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About the author

Michael Korda

83 books161 followers
is an English-born writer and novelist who was editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster in New York City.

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5 stars
72 (25%)
4 stars
115 (41%)
3 stars
69 (24%)
2 stars
22 (7%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for Linda.
1,982 reviews2 followers
May 8, 2019
How could I have let this book sit on my shelf for 15 years before reading it. What a treasure!
Michael Korda left the family business (films - one of his uncles was married to Merle Oberon) and became first, an editor for Simon and Schuster and while doing that, eventually became a successful author but published by Random House.

This book tells many back stories (not all of them flattering) of authors such as Jacqueline Susann, Harold Robbins, Bob Woodward and others who came to fame in other areas (i.e. President) before writing memoirs.

The rest of the world can have the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus. This book involved my" rock stars."
Profile Image for Aberjhani.
Author 27 books237 followers
July 27, 2007
in another life, korda provides us with a precisely rendered account of publishing and authorship in the days before self-publishing and the extremes of marketing hype came to exert their formidable influences on the industry. having written bestsellers of his own (such as power!) and worked with simon and schuster as an editor for some of the most celebrated names in u.s. literature, korda was particularly well-positioned to write this memoir of other people. not only is it one of the better books that an aspiring writer can read to learn about the mechanics and history of publishing, it is also one of the most entertaining with profiles of such literary and political icons as truman capote, jacqueline susann, jesse jackson, ronald reagan, tennessee williams, harold robbins, larry mcmurtry, joan crawford, and many others.[return] [return][return]aberjhani[return]author of visions of a skylark dressed in black [return]and encyclopedia of the harlem renaissance
Profile Image for Heather.
112 reviews3 followers
June 21, 2010
Insider's view of the publishing world, mostly during the 70s and 80s. While not as good as Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (and really, what publishing book will ever be?), Korda depicts publishing in an era of change that seems more relevant.
Profile Image for RunRachelRun.
291 reviews6 followers
June 25, 2009
Lovely. This kind of life, full of art, literature, lush luxury and love of words is no longer possible in this Kindle-lit world. I glad that someone had the chance to live it.
Profile Image for Josh.
109 reviews2 followers
March 3, 2010
Korda's had a wild ride in the publishing industry; excellent tales about mobsters, ghostwritten Ronald Reagan, and the insouciant Tennessee Williams. Who knows (cares) if it's all true?
240 reviews3 followers
March 19, 2020
Michael Korda is a mesmerizing and prolific writer who at this writing is in his late 80s. His famous and outstanding first Memoir was published in 1979 (Charmed Lives). It became one of my all-time favorite books, depicting Korda’s family of Hungarian Jews (his Uncle Alex and Father Vincent) who were both filmmakers. Vincent an Art Director and Alex a Director and Producer (The Thin Man among his many films). Alex's second wife was the Hungarian actress Merle Oberon who became the subject of Michael Korda’s book “Queenie”. Before Michael Korda became a notable biographer (he wrote another of my favorites, Hero, The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia) he was a book editor at Simon and Schuster. And it is his career in Publishing that is the makings of Another Life.
Another Life is mostly a first-person history of the Publishing business from the late 1950s to 1999. Korda’s perspective is from his job as a life long Editor who kind of fell into writing his own books. He also embraces some thoughts on the movie business because of his family history and the synergy between publishing and movie making. The book is told via numerous personal profiles of people like Richard Nixon, Graham Green, Tennessee Williams, Jacqueline Susann, Ronald Reagan, and many others including numerous celebrities and authors. And woven into these profiles are the personalities and businessmen who came and went both building and destroying the book publishing industry over some 40 years.
This is also one of those books you can visit, put down and then revisit like an old friend. I have had it sitting on my shelf since 1999 when I read parts of it only to start it again recently, put it down for another book, and then return an finish. If you have any interest in social, business, books, publishing, and the observations of a wonderful writer this is a book I can most favorably recommend.
Profile Image for Lou Britt.
59 reviews
January 31, 2020
Michael Korda is a major editor in one of publishing’s big 5. In his memoir (rightly subtitled “A Memoir of Other People”), he details the ever-changing trends within the publishing industry and describes, in rich detail, the major players. .
Although a dense read (500+ pages and the text size does not help), if you want an insiders perspective on publishing, this does a pretty good job. I especially found interesting the depiction of the gatekeepers and curators of what is available on our shelves. It’s no secret that diversity in fiction is still only a blossoming idea. Korda does not shy away from the unspoken industry fact that the white men running the publishing houses felt bound to curate decency in literature. And as such, followed their own tastes.

His character descriptions are incredibly memorable. A talent I admire and enjoyed reading every time someone new was introduced.

This clearly is not my typical read or genre, however I found it rather enlightening. If you’re interested in editing and publishing, I suggest delving right in!
45 reviews
May 22, 2017
Best and funniest book about publishing I've read. Went back to the Korda for a second read after having read Robert Gottlieb's memoir Avid Reader. Enjoyed the Gottlieb book but loved the Korda, even on the second go-around. The stories come from another era, yet they stand up and are still completely relevant. Hard to hold back from reading some of the best stories out loud. If you work in publishing, don't miss Another Life.
214 reviews
August 13, 2018
I’m not often interested in lives of rich and famous Americans, so I skimmed quite a lot, but this turned out to be fairly engaging. The behaviour and personalities of many of the people he met, including movie stars (Joan Crawford e.g.), and presidents (Nixon, Reagan e.g.), plus so many more including many people I’d never heard of, exceeded anything a fiction writer could invent.
Profile Image for Marilyn Boyle-Taylor.
621 reviews10 followers
December 14, 2021
Very interesting background on Simon and Schuster publishing house. Korda’s rise is quite amazing and the reader can see how he handled people engagingly and gently while accomplishing his goals. He is a very likeable and erudite writer. I would have edited out a few redundancies, but who am I to argue with a master editor?
Profile Image for Marianne Perry.
Author 1 book24 followers
March 5, 2022
Excellent insight into publishing process, working with various authors, etc. Korda was former editor-in-chief of Simon and Schuster Publish. Also a well-respected author. Should be mandatory reading for all who are interested in writing a book. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Pedro Carias.
5 reviews
July 12, 2023
I enjoyed a lot, especially the ending of the book. It has curiosities about relationship among writers and editors, the moment book industry was placed in the eye of investors, celebrities "becoming writers".
1,501 reviews2 followers
September 3, 2018
Really entertaining, gossipy overview of the the publishing industries in the 1960s-1990s.
Profile Image for Furnison.
303 reviews17 followers
January 16, 2019
Interesting book about book editing and publishing in the 1950s through the 1980s.
Profile Image for Katie.
34 reviews
January 30, 2019
Takes a while to read

3 1/2 stars. Really interesting read for anyone going into this business. God is it long and over characterized though
Profile Image for Philip.
282 reviews50 followers
May 10, 2011
Must-reading for anyone in the publishing and bookselling business, especially younger people who have no idea of what the business was like before most of the publishers became part of conglomerates and the chain stores and then the internet began dominating book sales. I work with people who have no clue that Doubleday, Bantam, Knopf, Delacorte/Dell and Crown used to be actual publishers on their own, and not just divisions or imprints of Random House, who don't know that William Morrow used to be much more than just an imprint of HarperCollins, or that Viking, Putnam and Dutton weren't all part of Penguin-Putnam.

Just a few of the reasons I feel like a dinosaur.

Anyway, I'm enjoying Korda's book - having been familiar with his family history for so long, and having heard about him first-hand from Simon & Schuster employees, I feel like I know the guy.

I'm a little surprised, though, at at least one error that got by Korda and his fact-checker: He refers to A Stone For Danny Fisher as Harold Robbins's first novel, when it was actually his third.

5/10/11: For the most part an engaging and fascinating overview of the publishing industry since the late 1950s, from the more leisurely-run 'cottage industry' companies usually run by the people who founded them and gave their names to them, to the acquisition-hungry 1980s and 1990s, when publishers absorbed each other to gain a bigger share of the market, and were ultimately themselves 'conglomerated" as part of the entertainment arm of various huge corporations that liked to crunch numbers - never a wise thing in an industry based on taste and gut reaction to a manuscript. As Korda shows here, books that were expected to be huge bestsellers (such as SHARDIK, Richard Adams's follow-up to WATERSHIP DOWN) could tank big-time.

Along the way there are reminisces about many famous authors whom Korda edited, ranging from flattering and affectionate (Larry McMurtry, R.F. Delderfield, Graham Greene) to disdainful (Harold Robbins) to amusement (Jacqueline Susann, who wanted an S&S receptionist fired for putting her on hold!).
Profile Image for Angela.
601 reviews41 followers
December 5, 2015
This book was such a joy to read. Michael Korda was editor in chief at S&S, and experienced much of the company's history—he started there as a lowly reader, when Dick Simon and Max Schuster were still building their empire.

Korda was an integral part of S&S's history. He was editor to authors that are still widely read today, including Jacqueline Susann, Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, and a number of mobsters and politicians (his recounting of a dinner party at the Nixon's is hilarious.) But he not only represented the authors—he got to know them. Some of them are pleasant and easier to please (ie, Ronald Reagan), while some are a little more... high-strung (hello, Joan Crawford).

"Another Life" is an ideal title, too. While he does recount his own history and rise to fame (Korda became a best-selling novelist himself), most of it recounts the unforgettable cast of characters. Max Schuster was neurotic and paranoid; Dick Snyder, former CEO, was an angry guy you wanted to keep on your side; Bob Gottlieb, Korda's predecessor, was passionate about every book he acquired.

It was a slow progression from "publishing books you love" to "buying what will sell." The industry went from fudging the numbers to make it work, to elaborate P&L statements. The end of the book, which takes place in the 1990s, touches upon massive mergers (both publishers and bookstores). Having joined S&S not long after that, my own experience continues into the era of ebooks, hiring freezes, and the growth of Amazon. I'm dying to know what Korda sees of this era, too.

It's obvious how much Korda loves his job. It has its ups and downs, and he's had his fair share of failures as well as successes. He shares tales of crazy coworkers and even crazier authors. He travels across America and Europe to satisfy them. But he had fun. And if you can't have fun in publishing, then you go a little crazy yourself.
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 9 books121 followers
September 14, 2011
Author and Editor Michael Korda's memoir of his past forty years in the New York book publishing business is a fascinating read. I wouldn't call it a gossipy, but charmingly anecdotal, fascinating read about many of the intriguing people he has edited in his career: Jackie Susann, Nixon, Reagan, Tennessee Williams, Graham Greene, Will and Ariel Durrant, with one or two mob bosses thrown into the mix.

I liked getting the inside look at book publishing from the 1950's when Korda started work at Simon and Schuster, until the late 1990's when he wrote the book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of publishing in the U.S. It's not a dry read by any means. Korda knows how to spin a story, even in non-fiction. It's a big book that I read in less than a week because I just couldn't get enough of learning the inside workings of Simon & Schuster-- the office politics, the schmoozing of authors, the editing policies, the buyouts, mergers, the hirings and firings.

Ironically, as he was talking about the vast changes in publishing and bookselling-- larger companies gobbling up smaller ones-- he ends his book before the biggest changes of all-- the appearance of Amazon, then the Kindle and e-books.

The big event Korda ends his story with, besides the word processor and how it revolutionized the industry, is the appearance of the big box chain bookstores, and how publishing and selling books has narrowed the field down to just two big stores and two big publishers. That was ten years ago. I only wish he had kept writing and covered the publishing industry and bookselling into the 21st century. The changes in the past decade have dwarfed anything up to now. Those big box chains are now in serious trouble, and it's anyone's best guess how the big conglomerate publishers are doing in the face of the ebook revolution.
Profile Image for Allyson.
Author 2 books65 followers
October 30, 2013
Yeah, okay, so I'm biased. This book came out right after I started working as a wee assistant at Simon & Schuster, one of the oldest standing publishing houses and one of New York's famed "Big Six" (though I guess it's technically "Big Five" now that Random House and Penguin have merged). Michael Korda was still an editor there, and our Editor in Chief ordered copies of the book for everyone in our department. It's a fond and early memory of my publishing career. But I also really enjoyed the book. Korda takes the reader on a tour of the early, glory days of publishing and introduces you to some colorful characters whose names you should recognize if you're at all interested in the history of American books. I would read this again in a heartbeat and get sappy for my industry all over again. In fact, just talking about it makes me want to reread it. I think I shall.
12 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2010
No lo tuve que leer como una lectura obligada, de hecho nada de lo que leo es una obligación! Pero, por extraño que paresca, hay algunas cosas que se leen como con un dejo de obligación; aún no leo "La Guerra y la Paz", por algo será... en fin.
El autor de este entretenidisimo libro fue editor, posiblemente en su mejor época, de Simon and Schuster. Y les aseguro que el mundo editorial es todo, menos aburrido. El género de las autobiografias ha sido desdeñado, tal vez por el sentimiento de mistificación grandilocuente y el exceso del YO, la egomania que tan mal es vista. Vuelvo a retarlos; existen excelentes autobiografias, y esta es una de ellas, (ya tendré oportunidad de recomendar otras).
Profile Image for Drucilla.
2,452 reviews44 followers
May 20, 2012
If you're curious about what goes on behind the scenes in the publishing industry, but don't want a textbook, I suggest this book. Textbooks don't offer the real life observations that this book does. Korda is a pretty detached person in terms of his career, but that's what makes this book such a well-rounded memoir. For the most part, Korda describes things very distantly from himself so the reader gets a better view of the publishing industry as a whole and the changes that occured within it. His career spans the latter half of the 20th century so many of the books, and even people, may not be familiar to the current reader, but usually Korda is good about giving backstory. He does like to talk so be warned, the book is hefty.
Profile Image for Noemi Proietti.
910 reviews45 followers
February 22, 2015
In this amazing book, Michael Korda tells how he first started working in publishing and how he came to meet interesting and sometimes strange people and to work with personalities such as Joan Crawford, Graham Green, Tennessee Williams, and former US presidents, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. It is not a biography, but an insightful tale of book publishing in New York from the '60s to the '90s and how publishing changed from the '20s, when publishing houses belonged to their creators and their aim was to publish great books, to the end of the century when they belonged to big multinationals whose aim was to make more money.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
51 reviews
August 28, 2015
Back in the 80s, I started my adult life at Simon & Schuster, most of my two plus years spent in the Publicity Department. Michael Korda was at that time a publishing god. All these years later, it was wonderful to read his fascinating account of his time there, throwing in the history of book publishing, at least in the 20th century and a cast of characters, from Jackie Susann to Richard Nixon to Harold Robbins to Tennessee Williams, not to mention the infamous Dick Snyder who was CEO during my time there. At times, this book made me laugh out loud. This was a great ride, even if you have never set foot in a publishing house. I could not put it down.
Profile Image for Laurel.
151 reviews49 followers
February 12, 2016
I was required to read this for school, but I'm really glad I was! I hope to be an editor one day and this book gave me a good idea of where the idustry has been and where it is in very accessible and personal way. However as an hopeful editor to be, it alternately terrified me as to my choices and reassured me that editing is what I'm meant to do. So if that's a reason you're reading this book, be forewarned.
Profile Image for Michelle Hinkson - Goins.
13 reviews3 followers
August 1, 2015
I don't know why it took me so long to read this book. I loved it and it brought back so many wonderful memories working at Simon & Schuster in the early 80's in the Publicity dept. with the great Julia Knickerbocker. Michael Korda's stories of D. Snyder, J. Evans, A. Mayhew etc. are only the tip of the iceberg of what went on during that fast-paced, magical time in publishing. I loved every minute of this read.
29 reviews
November 30, 2015
This was published in 2000, and has been sitting on my shelves for many years. I'm glad I finally got to read this. Having worked for Borders, this was a fascinating look at the publishing business. I had no idea how involved editors are in the actual writing of a book. Their involvement in the final product, and their relationship with the authors they work with, is more intense than I had ever realized.
Profile Image for Julianne.
2 reviews
October 23, 2010
Michael Korda has an incredibly fascinating background. His voice is quite enjoyable in his memoir, and he interfaced with quite a cast of conventional characters at Simon & Schuster. I just read his plunge into not only editing, but his hand as a freelance writer and movie reviewer. Currently on part four looking for him to move on up that corporate ladder.
Profile Image for Sarah.
38 reviews
August 2, 2007
I was interested in learning more about writing, editing and publishing so I read this memoir. I would compare it to a sausage factory expose - the end products are often incredible - but I wish I never knew how they were made.
Profile Image for Kate Buford.
Author 3 books9 followers
November 8, 2009
Read this ages ago. Gave me the happy fantasy that editors can and will fix books (not that mine don't and haven't). Then suspected author may have been, just a little, pumping up his own ultimate ownership of his list.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews

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