Robert Gottlieb has been Editor in Chief of Simon and Schuster, Knopf, and The New Yorker. His memoir, Avid Reader: A Life, was published in September. (December 2016)


‘A Monstrous Prodigy’

Thomas Wolfe, April 1937; photograph by Carl Van Vechten


a film directed by Michael Grandage

Father to Daughter: The Family Letters of Maxwell Perkins

by Maxwell Perkins, edited by Louise Perkins King, Ruth King Porter, and Bertha Perkins Frothingham
The movie Genius, which recently came and went with predictable celerity, is an earnest attempt to track the relationship between Thomas Wolfe and his famous editor, Maxwell Perkins, by turning it into a high-flown literary bromance: boy meets man, soul meets soul, deeply needy young writer bonds with melancholic son-less …

Brilliant, Troubled Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918–1923

edited by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick

Complete Stories

by Dorothy Parker, edited by Colleen Breese, with an introduction by Regina Barreca
She struck a chord with the public: from the start, her voice spoke to a wide range of readers. Her generally sardonic, often angry, occasionally brutal view of men and women—of love and marriage, of cauterized despair—triggered recognition and perhaps even strengthened resolve. She told the truth as she perceived it, while using her wit and humor to hold at arm’s length the feelings that her personal experiences had unleashed in her.

Dancing in the Dark

Sarah Hay and Sascha Radetsky in Flesh and Bone

Flesh and Bone

a television series created by Moira Walley-Beckett
What did ballet ever do to the world to deserve the way it’s always being represented by writers and filmmakers? Poor ballet! It’s so hard to get right; it’s so fragile an enterprise; it’s so battered by economic and sociological realities. Why does this fiendishly demanding but deeply rewarding process …

‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’

Lady Diana Cooper, May 1960; photograph by Cecil Beaton

Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Her Son John Julius Norwich, 1939–1952

edited by John Julius Norwich

Trying to Please: A Memoir

by John Julius Norwich
What can it have been like to have been Lady Diana Cooper, “the most beautiful girl in the world,” “the only really glamorous woman in the world,” the most celebrated debutante of her era, the daughter of a duke, the wife of a famous diplomat (and so the British ambassadress …


An Actress Like No Other

Setsuko Hara as Noriko Somiya in Yasujirō Ozu's Late Spring, 1949

Noriko, in Ozu’s Tokyo Story, is the quintessential Setsuko Hara character: she’s the archetype of the post-war, modern young woman. Yet she also embodies the virtues of the traditional Japanese woman: loyalty, self-sacrifice, suffering in silence; she’s the perfect daughter, wife, mother. She was utterly real, yet she represented an ideal…the ideal.

Tame Jane

Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre, a film directed by Cary Fukunaga

The new film version of Jane Eyre isn’t all bad, but it’s all wrong. The story, despite a confusing flashback structure, is coherent. The dialogue is satisfying. The look is convincing. What’s lacking is Jane Eyre itself—Charlotte Brontë’s feverish inner world of anguish and fury.

Monstres Sacrés in Love

Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) and Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis)

All bio-pix are by definition ridiculous since their subjects have to be manifestly unique people—why else would the movie be made?—while what makes them unique is exactly what’s so impossible to convey. (Creativity is invisible, hence unfilmable.)

My President

I was jolted the other day when The New York Times science section splashed three big close-up head-shots of FDR across the top of its front page. (The story: his death of a cerebral hemorrhage may have been linked to a melanoma.) Suddenly, unexpectedly, there was the face of my president. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932, at the height of the Depression, more or less a year after I was born, and by the time I became conscious of the great world out there, he had become the family hero: as resourceful as he was wise, as charming as he was brilliant. Everyone we knew loved his handsome, distinguished face, was moved by his beautiful voice—the famous fireside chats!—and, most important of all in those frightening times, took comfort from the confidence he radiated. We knew instinctively that with him leading us, all would be well.