Lynn Nesbit, the famed literary agent who has represented Tom Wolfe, Donald Barthelme, Jimmy Carter, Michael Crichton, and countless other marquee names, gives a long interview in this month’s issue of Poets & Writers.
Lots of highlights in there, but perhaps most striking is the overpowering sense that Things Used to Be Better:
"I say to [former Knopf and New Yorker editor] Bob Gottlieb, who’s still a very close personal friend, ‘You couldn’t stand to be in publishing today.’ And he says, ‘I know.’ It is very corporatized. We all began to think about that in those days. What was going to happen? These big conglomerates, synergy, all that. People began to worry about it…"
More along these lines after the jump.
"Even [former Simon & Schuster CEO] Dick Synder is a lot more colorful than [newly departed Simon & Schuster CEO] Jack Romanos, who is now gone. I mean, they had passion, they cared about literature. Even Dick, who’s not an intellectual. He cared. He was a madman. I mean, we need a little bit more…. Who is a madman now in publishing? [Random House chief] Peter Olson, but of a very strange type. I mean, [Morgan [Enterkin, Grove/Atlantic publisher]‘s eccentric, [Sonny Mehta, Knopf publisher]‘s eccentric. Morgan’s less eccentric than he used to be. He’s getting very conventional now with the wife and the child. It was just different then."
And finally: "I miss the fun. I tell [colleagues] Tina [Bennett] and Eric [Simonoff]… People are too scared. [Publishing] doesn’t attract eccentrics anymore."