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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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Session:         Page of 1029

Q:

What do you think makes a good editor and do you think you can teach somebody to be a good editor?

Cerf:

No. I guess it's like being a good author. He's got to be born with the necessary talents. First of all, he has to be interested in other people. To my mind, a bad editor is a frustrated writer himself. So many editors are only editors because they haven't made it as writers. Their temptation is always to rewrite books because they think that they can do it better. We have to watch every editor on that. Saxe Commins, great editor that he was, was a frustrated writer and he would always try to rewrite O'Hara or Faulkner or Michener. Of course any good author will always tell an editor where to draw the line. Sometimes he'll demand another editor. In the case of Michener, he got so annoyed with Saxe, who was just trying to be helpful, that he couldn't work with him any longer. He came to us because of Saxe, but he couldn't stand him as an editor any longer. That's the one fault that Saxe had. With all of the love that he had of people and Random House, he could not resist trying to put his own wording into manuscripts. Albert Erskine is my idea of one of the great editors of the world. He doesn't want to write himself. He also will have no part of the office routine. When we wanted him to be editor-in-chief at Random House, he said, “I have trouble enough editing Michener and O'Hara and Red Warren and whatnot. I don't want to have to keep track of all of the trash that comes into a publishing office.”



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