Robert Gottlieb : biography
Robert Gottlieb was born in New York City in 1931 and grew up in Manhattan. He graduated from Columbia University in 1952, and spent two years at Cambridge University before joining Simon and Schuster in 1955 as an editorial assistant to Jack Goodman, the editor-in-chief.The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1, p 337, Picador, New York, 2006
He is married to Maria Tucci, an actress whose father, the novelist Niccolò Tucci, was one of Gottlieb's writers. They have two children: Lizzie Gottlieb, a film director, and Niccolò (Nicky). Nicky has Asperger syndrome and is the subject of one of his sister's documentary films Today's Man.
Approach to editing
In a 1994 interview with The Paris Review, Gottlieb described his need to "surrender" to a book. "The more you have surrendered," he said, "the more jarring its errors appear. I read a manuscript very quickly, the moment I get it. I usually won't use a pencil the first time through because I'm just reading for impressions. When I read the end, I'll call the writer and say, I think it's very fine (or whatever), but I think there are problems here and here. At that point I don't know why I think that—I just think it. Then I go back and read the manuscript again, more slowly, and I find and mark the places where I had negative reactions to try to figure out what's wrong. The second time through I think about solutions—maybe this needs expanding, maybe there's too much of this so it's blurring that.The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1, pp 350-351, Picador, New York, 2006
Gottlieb discovered and edited Catch-22 by the then-unknown Joseph Heller. He served as editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster and Alfred A. Knopf, which he left in 1987 to succeed William Shawn as editor of The New Yorker, staying in the position until 1992.
Gottlieb has edited novels by John Cheever, Salman Rushdie, John Gardner, Len Deighton, John le Carré, Ray Bradbury, Elia Kazan, Margaret Drabble, Michael Crichton, Mordecai Richler and Toni Morrison, and non-fiction books by Barbara Tuchman, Jessica Mitford, Robert Caro, Antonia Fraser, Lauren Bacall, Liv Ullman, Sidney Poitier, John Lennon, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Bruno Bettelheim, Carl Schorske, and many others.The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1, p 336, Picador, New York, 2006
Gottlieb rejected John Kennedy Toole's initial manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces. Toole refused the changes and eventually committed suicide in 1969. After Toole's death, his mother, Thelma Toole, in conjunction with author Walker Percy, had A Confederacy of Dunces published by the Louisiana State Press. John Kennedy Toole posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for the work.
To date, Gottlieb is the only editor included in the marathon series of writer interviews conducted and published by The Paris Review. The interview with Gottlieb appears in Volume I of the current series of four volumes published by Picador.
For many years Gottlieb was associated with New York City Ballet, serving as a member of its board of directors. In this vein, he published several books by people from the dance world including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Margot Fonteyn. He also works as a dance critic for The New York Observer.
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