Jason Epstein, publishing editor and innovator, lifeless at 93

NEW YORK (AP) — Jason Epstein, a publishing innovator and bon vivant who helped put the classics in paperback, co-founded The New York Overview of Books and labored with such novelists as E.L. Doctorow, Vladimir Nabokov and Philip Roth, has died at age 93.

Epstein died Friday “surrounded by his books” at his dwelling in Sag Harbor, New York, stated his spouse, the writer and former New York Instances journalist Judith Miller. The trigger was congestive coronary heart failure, she stated.

The guide world has its share of unintentional lifers and Epstein was one. As soon as a younger bohemian who desired solely sufficient cash to have time for studying, he took a job at Doubleday within the early Fifties, joined Random Home in 1958 and remained for many years as editorial director. He grew to become one of many trade’s most honored executives, receiving lifetime achievement awards from the Nationwide Ebook Basis, presenters, of the Nationwide Ebook Award, in 1988; and from the Nationwide Ebook Critics Circle in 2002.

Epstein was not only a man of letters, however of food and drinks, whose personal books included the memoir “Consuming” and whose eating companions ranged from Buster Keaton to Jacqueline Kennedy to the infamous attorney-political operative Roy Cohn. In “Making It,” a 1967 best-seller concerning the literary world, Norman Podhoretz wrote affectionately of Epstein’s tastes for imported sneakers, first-class journey and “appallingly costly” eating places.

“He was lovely to look at,” Podhoretz noticed.

He was as well-read and as opinionated because the authors he labored with, “so damned clever,” Mailer would joke, as soon as telling The Related Press that he needed to regulate to an editor “who is likely to be so much brighter” then he was. Epstein revealed an early excerpt of Nabokov’s “Lolita” and fought unsuccessfully to persuade Doubleday to publish the scandalous novel a few professor’s obsession with a 12-year previous woman. Epstein additionally feuded bitterly with Gore Vidal and have become a critic of the Library of America, believing that the imprint he helped set up had grown bloated. Random Home co-founder Bennett Cerf would name him the “cross I bear,” whereas Epstein labeled Cerf “the bear I cross.”

Among the many many books edited by Epstein: Doctorow’s Melancholy-era novel “Billy Bathgate,” Jane Jacobs’ traditional of city research “The Dying and Lifetime of Nice American Cities” and Mailer’s CIA epic “Harlot’s Ghost.”

Epstein admittedly handed over the occasional best-seller, though he was pleased with rejecting Shirley MacLaine’s New Age favourite “Out on a Limb.”

“We had been associates and he or she truly wrote a lot of that guide at my home in Sag Harbor (on New York’s Lengthy Island). However she by no means advised me what it was about,” Epstein advised the AP in 2000. “I learn this and I stated, ‘Come on, Shirley, you’re nuts.’”

The son of a profitable textile salesman, Epstein grew up in Maine and Massachusetts, the place he acquired his longtime ardour for tremendous delicacies and spent a lot time on the library that one librarian saved his card whereas he and his household spent a yr in New York Metropolis. Within the late Nineteen Forties, he entered Columbia College, when the college’s president was Dwight D. Eisenhower. Epstein met the long run U.S. president as soon as, and, accidentally, made a tremendous impression.

“I had spent the evening downtown with a woman,” Epstein advised the AP. “I may hardly arise. I had been up all evening and he thought I used to be a shiny younger fellow, up shiny and early. He was beaming, and he shook my hand.”

In his early 20s, his quest for inexpensive classics impressed him to begin one in all publishing’s first literary paperback imprints, Anchor Books, now a part of Penguin Random Home. He additionally helped launch two different main and lasting initiatives. One got here within the early Nineteen Sixties when a newspaper strike and the overall tedium of literacy criticism led Epstein and his then-wife, Barbara, to assist discovered The New York Overview of Books, together with critic Elizabeth Hardwick and editor Robert Silvers amongst others. Within the late Seventies, he was among the many creators of the Library of America, which gives hardcover editions of the nation’s most influential writers.

He had two youngsters with Barbara Epstein: daughter Helen Epstein, a contributor to The New York Overview of Books; and son Jacob Epstein, a tv author whose time within the guide world was transient and unlucky. His novel “The Wild Oats” was revealed in 1979 and was quickly discovered to include quite a few similarities to Martin Amis’ “The Rachel Papers.”

“Epstein wasn’t influenced by ‘The Rachel Papers,’” Amis wrote on the time, “he had it flattened out beside his typewriter.”

Jason Epstein was the uncommon publishing veteran to point out early and unforced enthusiasm for know-how. He seemed for tactics to promote books on-line earlier than the rise of e-books and Amazon.com and was a powerful advocate for in-store machines that might print and bind works on demand. Epstein basically advocated a system that enabled authors to bypass the trade that employed him, wanting again to the times when Parson Weems may promote books about George Washington by merely sitting underneath a tree and hitting on a drum.

“Quickly writers and readers will be capable of meet once more on a worldwide inexperienced the place writers could as soon as extra beat their drums or rent a Weems to drum up enterprise for them,” Epstein wrote in “Ebook Enterprise,” a memoir revealed in 2001. “On the World Vast Net, future storytellers and their readers can mingle at leisure and discuss at size.”


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