Entertainment & the Arts: Sunday, May 09, 1999

“Another Life: A Memoir of Other People” by Michael Korda

By Mark Lindquist
Special To The Seattle Times

This autobiography put me in mind of a line from a Jim Morrison poem, “Did you have a good world when you died, enough to base a movie on?”

Michael Korda has had such a life, and he’s not even dead yet. As the subtitle suggests, Korda focuses his book more on people he’s known than on himself. But this is still his life, his world.

Korda started as an assistant to an editor at Simon & Schuster in 1958. He is currently editor-in-chief of S&S and a best-selling author with 11 books to his credit. In his 40-year career, Korda has dealt closely with the likes of Jacqueline Susann, Larry McMurtry, Tennessee Williams, Claus Von Bulow, Carlos Castaneda, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

The celebrity anecdotes, which make up most of the book, are intercut with corporate drama. Some of the most compelling passages track the giddy ambition of Korda and Dick Snyder, young men plotting their ascent at S&S. They happened to make their moves at a time when book publishing was in transition from cottage business to semi-glamorous industry. This was a fortunate intersection of circumstances, and the result is a fascinating book by a large personality living in an interesting time.

Other people’s lives are handled with engaging candor, but Korda is much stingier with his own. His fascination with power and celebrity over more humdrum matters as, say, family, captures the mood of his time and tribe, and makes for a good read. It’s difficult to tell from this book if it has made for a good life.

Korda’s prose is surprisingly workmanlike, but he has an impressive memory, a good eye for telling moments, and surely knows how to pen a story. His instinct for what keeps pages turning has kept him in business all these years and serves him well here. As Korda might put it, this book works.


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