Book Review: ‘The Editor,’ by Sara B. Franklin

May 25, 2024
Dining & Wine
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Afflicted with painful endometriosis, which doctors infuriatingly used to call “the career women’s disease” — Franklin recounts Jones bleeding profusely in her assistant’s cubicle, then going back to her desk — she was unable to conceive children, which she wanted badly. But the couple adopted two of a relative’s teenagers, including them in adventuresome dinners. “That was mean of me,” she admitted, of serving tripe.

Franklin revels in all the food stuff, but does not skimp on general publishing history, like Jones’s apprenticeship to the colorful Blanche Knopf. (We’ll need more time to contextualize recent upheaval at the house.) Plath’s suicide came distressingly soon after Jones, who’d published her “The Colossus and Other Poems” in the States, had rejected her novel, “The Bell Jar.”

Lionized in recent years, especially after release of the documentary “Turn Every Page,” Gottlieb comes off here as dismissive of Jones’s talents. He called her a “lady” with a “rich husband,” suggested her authors didn’t need much input, and was defensive about underpaying her. She was not a “marcher,” as a colleague put it, but firmly feminist in her achievements, and remarkably tenacious in mind and body, surviving a flash flood with dog in arms months after her widowhood.

I don’t mind that “The Editor” is a valentine. But surprisingly, given the richness of the material, I closed it feeling slightly underfed, wanting more butter between the slices of this big life. We learn about Tyler’s development as an author, for example, but there’s nothing about her ’80s blockbuster, “The Accidental Tourist.” Jacqueline Susann would probably dispute that Child’s then-publicist invented the modern book tour. Jones’s failure to see the talent of Alice Munro — twice — is alluded to in the introduction, but never explained.

And the editor herself would probably have excised a few of her biographer’s clichés, the striking of gold and going over the moon and firing on all cylinders. But with the utmost tact, bien sûr.

THE EDITOR: How Publishing Legend Judith Jones Shaped Culture in America | By Sara B. Franklin | Atria | 336 pp. | $29.99

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