Robert Giroux, a titan of the publishing world, passed away on Friday. From the NY Times obituary:
How many masterpieces Mr. Giroux discovered will be for the future to decide. As he himself insisted, it can take decades for a book to become a classic. Still, one of the first books he edited is now on any list of the century’s best, Edmund Wilson’s work on 19th-century socialist thinkers, “To the Finland Station” (1940); Mr. Giroux judged the manuscript to be nearly flawless.
He was also T. S. Eliot’s American editor and published the American edition of George Orwell’s “1984,” accepting it at once despite the objection of his immediate superior, whose wife had found some of the novel’s passages distasteful.
Mr. Giroux introduced a long roster of writers who would achieve fame, publishing first books by, among others, Jean Stafford, Robert Lowell, Bernard Malamud, Flannery O’Connor, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, William Gaddis, Jack Kerouac and Susan Sontag. He edited Virginia Woolf, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Carl Sandburg, Elizabeth Bishop, Katherine Anne Porter, Walker Percy, Donald Barthelme, Grace Paley, Derek Walcott, Louise Bogan and William Golding.
In one episode he persuaded William Saroyan to transform “The Human Comedy” (1943) from a film script into a novel by suggesting that he simply remove the camera directions from the manuscript. The novel sold well and became a book-club selection.
But to his lasting chagrin, Mr. Giroux also saw two major works slip from his grasp, J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”