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Robert Gottlieb

Robert Gottlieb
Born Robert Adams Gottlieb
(1931-04-29) April 29, 1931
New York, New York, United States
Columbia University, B.A., 1952

graduate study at Cambridge University, 1952-54

Occupation editor
Notable work
  • A Certain Style: The Art of the Plastic Handbag, 1949-1959, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
  • George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker, Atlas Books/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
  • Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2010.
  • Lives and Letters, Farrar (New York, NY), 2011.
  • Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens, Farrar (New York, NY), 2012
(marriage ended)

Maria Tucci (an actress) (m. April 26, 1969

(1st marriage) Roger

(2nd marriage) Elizabeth, Niccolo

Parent(s) Charles (a lawyer) and Martha (a teacher) Gottlieb
Awards Phi Beta Kappa
Robert Adams Gottlieb

(born April 29, 1931) is an American writer and editor. From 1987 to 1992 he was the editor of The New Yorker.


  • Personal 1
  • Career 2
  • Approach to editing 3
  • Dance 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Robert Gottlieb was born in New York City to a Jewish family[2] in 1931 and grew up in Manhattan. During his childhood, he "was your basic, garden-variety, ambitious, upwardly mobile, hard-working Jewish boy from Brooklyn. I was bound to go beyond my parents. It was simply the way things were.”[2]

Gottlieb graduated from Columbia University in 1952, and spent two years at Cambridge University before joining Simon and Schuster in 1955 as an editorial assistant to Jack Goodman, the editor-in-chief.[3]

He is married to Maria Tucci, an actress whose father, the novelist Niccolò Tucci, was one of Gottlieb's writers. They have two children: Lizzie Gottlieb, a film director, and Niccolò (Nicky). Nicky has Asperger syndrome and is the subject of one of his sister's documentary films Today's Man.[4]


Gottlieb joined Simon & Schuster in 1955 and within ten years rose to editor-in-chief.[5] Gottlieb discovered and edited Catch-22 by the then-unknown Joseph Heller. In 1968, Gottlieb along with Nina Bourne and Anthony Schulte moved to Alfred A. Knopf. Gottlieb left in 1987 to succeed William Shawn as editor of The New Yorker, staying in the position until 1992. Gottlieb returned to Alfred A. Knopf as editor ex officio.[5]

Gottlieb has edited novels by Sylvia Ashton-Warner, John Cheever, Salman Rushdie, John Gardner, Len Deighton, John le Carré, Ray Bradbury, Elia Kazan, Margaret Drabble, Michael Crichton, Mordecai Richler and Toni Morrison, and non-fiction books by Barbara Tuchman, Jessica Mitford, Robert Caro, Antonia Fraser, Lauren Bacall, [Sylvia Ashton-Warner] Liv Ullman, Sidney Poitier, John Lennon, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Bruno Bettelheim, Carl Schorske, and many others.[6]

Gottlieb rejected John Kennedy Toole's initial manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces. Toole made revisions over a two year period, but Gottlieb ultimately rejected the novel. Toole was crushed and spiraled into depression, eventually committed suicide in 1969. After Toole's death, his mother, Thelma Toole, in conjunction with author Walker Percy, had A Confederacy of Dunces published by the Louisiana State Press. John Kennedy Toole posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for the work.

Approach to editing

In a 1994 interview with The Paris Review, Gottlieb described his need to "surrender" to a book. "The more you have surrendered," he said, "the more jarring its errors appear. I read a manuscript very quickly, the moment I get it. I usually won't use a pencil the first time through because I'm just reading for impressions. When I read the end, I'll call the writer and say, I think it's very fine (or whatever), but I think there are problems here and here. At that point I don't know why I think that—I just think it. Then I go back and read the manuscript again, more slowly, and I find and mark the places where I had negative reactions to try to figure out what's wrong. The second time through I think about solutions—maybe this needs expanding, maybe there's too much of this so it's blurring that.[7]

Fellow editor Michael Korda described Gottlieb as having a split personality as an editor—pursuing both high culture and low culture with equal intensity. Korda also described Gottlieb has having enthusiasm—and when he liked something he wanted the whole world to like it.[8]


For many years Gottlieb was associated with New York City Ballet, serving as a member of its board of directors.[9] In this vein, he published several books by people from the dance world including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Margot Fonteyn. He also works as a dance critic for The New York Observer and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Miami City Ballet.[10]


  • Gottlieb, Robert (January 7, 2013). "A Critic at Large: Man of Letters".  


  1. ^ "Robert A. Gottlieb".   (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Robert Gottlieb (June 20, 2013). "At the Top of Pop".  
  3. ^ The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1, p 337, Picador, New York, 2006
  4. ^ Gottlieb, Lizzie. "Today's Man". Orchard Pictures. Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  5. ^ a b Kirkpatrick, David D. (13 August 2001). "The Man Who Will Edit Clinton; Legendary Figure Will Try to Elicit Meaningful Memoir". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  6. ^ The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1, p 336, Picador, New York, 2006
  7. ^ The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1, pp 350-351, Picador, New York, 2006
  8. ^ Korda, Michael (1999). Another life : a memoir of other people (1st ed.). New York: Random House.  
  9. ^ Larissa MacFarquhar (Fall 1994). "Robert Gottlieb, The Art of Editing No. 1".  
  10. ^ "Board of Trustees". 

Further reading

  • Booklist
    • October 15, 1996, Bonnie Smothers, review of Reading Jazz: A Gathering of Autobiography, Reportage, and Criticism from 1919 to Now, p. 395
    • November 1, 2008, Donna Seaman, review of Reading Dance: A Gathering of Memoirs, Reportage, Criticism, Profiles, Interviews, and Some Uncategorizable Extras, p. 20
    • May 1, 2011, Donna Seaman, review of Lives and Letters, p. 54.
  • Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
    • May, 2001, Review J. Farrington, review of Reading Lyrics, p. 1604
    • May, 2005, S.E. Friedler, review of George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker, p. 1600
    • April, 2009, T.K. Hagood, review of Reading Dance, p. 1511
    • April, 2011, D.B. Wilmeth, review of Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt, p. 1485.
  • Commonweal, March 28, 1997, Frank McConnell, review of Reading Jazz, p. 23
  • Interview, December, 1996, Ingrid Sischy, "Jazz Writ Large," pp. 34–36
  • Library Journal
  • September 15, 1991, Lesley Jorbin, review of The Journals of John Cheever, p. 76
    • November 1, 1996, Michael Colby, review of Reading Jazz, p. 70
    • August, 2000, Review Barry Zaslow, review of Reading Lyrics, p. 107
    • October 1, 2008, Barbara Kundanis, review of Reading Dance, p. 72
    • June 1, 2011, David Keymer, review of Lives and Letters, p. 98
  • New York Times
    • July 1, 1992, Deirdre Carmody, "Tina Brown to Take Over at The New Yorker"
    • December 9, 1992, Eric Pace, "William Shawn, 85, Is Dead."
  • New York Times Book Review
    • December 22, 1996, Peter Keepnews, review of Reading Jazz
    • September 17, 2010, Emma Brockes, review of Sarah
  • Observer (London, England), October 24, 2010, Olivia Laing, review of Sarah.
  • Telegraph (London, England), October 22, 2010, Claudia FitzHerbert, review of Sarah.*

External links

  • "Robert Gottlieb". (subscription required) Gottlieb's author page and archive  
Preceded by
William Shawn
Editor of The New Yorker
Succeeded by
Tina Brown
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