Cover image for In the company of writers : a life in publishing
In the company of writers : a life in publishing
Scribner, Charles, Jr., 1921-1995.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, [1990]

Physical Description:
193 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z473 .S39 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



In his lively, informal, and extremely candid memoir of a lifetime spent among books and authors, Charles Scribner, Jr., offers an intimate view of a family--and family business--from his early childhood in the 1920s, when Max Perkins was editing Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe, through his classical studies at Princeton and cryptanalysis during WWII, which prepared him for taking the reins of Scribners in 1952 at age 30. 16-page photo insert.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

When the author, heir to the now-defunct House of Scribner, became its president in 1952, he carried on the family tradition begun by his great-grandfather in managing the Manhattan-based fiefdom comprising a printing firm, bindery, publishing company and the landmark Fifth Avenue Scribner Book Store, the ``Sistine Chapel of bookselling, which never made money'' (recently acquired by Waldenbooks for its Brentano chain). Revealing, opinionated, entertaining if awkwardly organized, audacious and stuffy by turn, this anecdotal re-creation of yesterday and today in a business that now ``belongs to the entertainment industry much more than to the literary world'' will captivate readers. Taking over the firm, Scribner perceived his most pressing challenge to be destroying the ``Maxwell Perkins cult,'' putting paid to the legacy of the editor who introduced F. Scott Fitzgerald et al. to the world, by charting the house into more profitable reference-book publishing. Given pride of place in the memoir, nevertheless, are recollections of Hemingway--``working with him was rather like being strapped in an electric chair''; not neglected, either, are Scribner stars James Jones, Loren Eisley, C. P. Snow, P. D. James, and publishing notables of the stripe of Oscar Dystel, Cass Canfield, William Jovanovich. Litterateurs will fault Scribner's cursory explanations for merging the house with Macmillan (in 1984) and for posthumously publishing Hemingway's letters against the novelist's wishes; most readers, however, will take pleasure in the company of these book folk, finding them, as Scribner does, ``an agreeable fraternity.'' Photos not seen by PW . First serial to the New York Times Book Review. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This autobiography, produced by the oral historian Joel Gardner, from a series of taped interviews, traces the history of Scribner the man and Scribner's the publishing house. The book begins with Charles Scribner's recollections of growing up in the fashionable community of Far Hills, New Jersey, then attending St. Paul's school and later Princeton. At age 24 he started working in the family business and over the years came to know the Scribner's legends--Maxwell Perkins, Ernest Hemingway, Alan Paton, Charles Lindbergh, P.D. James, and others. There are anecdotes and office adventures as one would expect; an entire chapter is devoted to Hemingway. On the business end, Scribner describes the reference department and the development of such standard works as the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, the Dictionary of the History of Ideas, and the American Writers set. With considerable pride he calls the reference books "bright jewels in our crown." Another chapter describes the evolving business structure of the firm up to the merger with Macmillan in 1984. Unfortunately, the book is bogged down with accounts of lunches with name authors at the Racquet Club and golf with other executives from the publishing world. Scribner comes through as a gentleman and a shrewd businessman. Through it all, readers will get a sense of the activity of a large trade publishing house--essentially a view from the top. -D. C. Dickinson, University of Arizona