Every field has its titans, larger than life persons with accomplished careers erected upon impeccable talent, judgment, and character. The field of editing is no different. And Robert Gottlieb is one of its titans.
Some years ago, The Paris Review published an extensive interview with Gottlieb titled The Art of Editing. It profoundly influenced me: how I behold the writing-editing process, how I sense and interpret the needs of a book, and how I wield the forces of editing. It influences me still.
The interview—with Gottlieb himself as well as several of the prominent authors he edited—is 14,000+ words. Don’t worry; I took notes.
Here now are those notes. I share them in the hopes of making a difference, or rather, channeling the difference they made upon me. It makes no matter whether you’re a writer or editor (or both). Gottlieb’s words speak to the necessities of refinement that all books must undergo to become better.
Please note: I’ve done my utmost to accurately quote what is a direct quote. If in doubt over a particular phrase or passage, please assume it came verbatim from The Paris Review’s original interview. Also, all numbering, organizing and emphasizing of information is my own. Finally, to prevent an awkward reading experience for you, I shall use block quotes sparingly.