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Book Review: Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

9780399584831Title: Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Berkley
Date: September 2, 2008

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. These names are not inconsequential in publishing. Neither is Maxwell Perkins but honestly, the average reader has no idea who he is. Max Perkins, as the title of this book suggests, was an editor of pure genius. He spent his entire career nurturing, building and growing young writers into extraordinary legends.

I have always pictured editors as a necessary cog in the wheel of publishing. Having read a variety of self-edited (or sometimes even not edited at all!) books, I can tell you that they are vitally important to making a good story into a great or even, on occasion, a readable story.  I have seen some really fantastic books that just needed a good, solid editor.

So when I saw this book come across my desk, it was, very much, something I wanted to read. How does one man influence the lives AND the writing of such amazing personalities in the field of literature? I mean these books that he edited are ALL on required reading for most high schools and colleges. And if you want to work in the field of literature at all, you can’t get away with not reading them. You must.

Reading about Max Perkins and his influence on these books and these writing legends was nothing short of fascinating. Hearing about how Hemingway handled a move from one publishing house just to work with Perkins, how Max eased and begged and coddled F. Scott Fitzgerald, but stood his ground at the same time. And the craziness of working with a genius like Wolfe…this was an adventure that sucked me in and had me hooked from line one.

My love of reading and literature carried me through some of the more tedious parts (It’s a long book – there were moments I got bogged down in some things. Not often- but a few times!) because I just couldn’t stop myself from wanting to know more.

Max Perkins was a man that should be a household name, but at the same time, he would hate anyone thinking that. It’s about the writers. They need to shine. He understood that his career was not for himself – it was for others.

If you are a student of literature in ANY WAY, pick up this book. If you want to be published, this is a must have on your shelf. And even if you’ve been published, this is one you’ll want to read.

Do not miss this book! Max Perkins was, indeed, an Editor of Genius and with this biography, we’re able to pull back the veil and get a glimpse into that brilliant, amazing and fabulous world.