(JTA) — Robert Gottlieb, the legendary literary editor who shepherded into print and best-sellerdom such 20th-century classics as Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” and Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen,” died Wednesday at age 92.
Few editors of his generation had as big an impact on the literary culture, from his time as editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster to his later association with Alfred A. Knopf (now Knopf Doubleday). He edited The New Yorker for five years and wrote numerous books himself, including several on one of his many passions: ballet.
The eye and obsessiveness he brought to editing (and what he once described as his “convoluted, neurotic, New York Jewish mind”) were captured last year in a documentary, “Turn Every Page,” about his longtime relationship with Caro, a fellow Jewish New Yorker. The film, by Gottlieb’s daughter Lizzie Gottlieb, remembers when Gottlieb and Caro sat side by side trimming Caro’s massive manuscript for “The Power Broker” — an epic biography of the New York City master builder Robert Moses — into a still weighty 1,200 pages. The book went on to become a bestseller and remains a touchstone for a generation of journalists and city planners.
“From the day 52 years ago that we first looked at my pages together, Bob understood what I was trying to do and made it possible for me to take the time, and do the work, I needed to do,” Caro said in a statement on Gottlieb’s passing. “People talk to me about some of the triumphant moments Bob and I shared, but today I remember other moments, tough ones, and I remember how Bob was always, always, for half a century, there for me. He was a great friend, and today I mourn my friend with all my heart.”
At his death, Gottlieb was working with Caro on the last installment of his five-volume Lyndon Johnson biography. There was no word from Knopf Doubleday on who would finish the edits on the long-awaited book.
A self-described “Jew who knows nothing about Jewishness,” Gottlieb was working at Simon & Schuster when in 1966 he received the manuscript for a novel by a rabbi about two Orthodox Jewish boys — one Modern, one Hasidic. Gottlieb saw the potential in Chaim Potok’s book, thinking it might introduce gentile readers and secular Jews like himself to the world of Orthodoxy while telling a universal story about fathers and sons. Gottlieb advised on the title of the book, and took his scalpel to the manuscript.
“I recognized that the book had come to an end, and that Chaim had written 300 more pages,” Gottlieb told the Paris Review in 1994. “The material that was the motor of the book had worked itself out, and he had gone on to write the sequel. So I called up Chaim’s agent and said, I love the book and would like to talk to him about it, but please explain to him it’s only on the condition that he drop the last 300 pages that I want to publish it; if he wants to leave it as it is, it’s a different book. Chaim immediately saw the point, so there was no problem.”
Following its publication in 1967, the book stayed at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 10 months. It spawned a movie starring Robbie Benson and Rod Steiger, and a sequel, “The Promise.”
Gottlieb also proposed that Potok write a nonfiction history of the Jews. “I grew up in an atheist household; I never attended anything. I thought that Chaim could write a very popular and useful book that might instruct someone like me,” said Gottlieb. “Wanderings” was published by Knopf in 1987.
Gottlieb’s other credits include fiction by future Nobel laureates Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing and V.S. Naipaul; spy novels by John le Carré; lyrics by Bob Dylan; fiction by the Canadian Jewish novelist Mordecai Richler; essays by the Jewish screenwriter, journalist and novelist Nora Ephron, and blockbuster science thrillers by Michael Crichton.
Born and raised in Manhattan, he graduated from Columbia University in 1952. After studying at Cambridge University, he joined Simon & Schuster in 1955 as an editorial assistant. Soon after, he took on a satirical novel by a Jewish writer and former World War II pilot named Joseph Heller. Gottlieb saw its potential when senior editors didn’t, and among his suggestions was changing the book’s title from “Catch-18” to “Catch-22” — to avoid confusion, Gottlieb explained, with Leon Uris’ “Mila 18,” a bestseller about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The book was a huge success and “Catch-22” entered the lexicon as a phrase meaning an unsolvable dilemma.
“I suppose our convoluted, neurotic, New York Jewish minds work the same way,” Gottlieb said about his relationship with Heller.
Gottlieb was married twice, the second time to actor Maria Tucci, and had three children. A famous workaholic, he reportedly was reviewing proofs of a book by the Jewish author Cynthia Ozick while helping his pregnant wife through labor.
“It’s almost a Talmudic focus on their craft, and without that they wouldn’t be who they are,” said the filmmaker. “So to the extent that that’s a Jewish quality, I think that’s essential to their being, to their achievements. There’s something like a Talmudic scholar in going over all these things, the industriousness and the empathy as well, this sort of looking at a thing from all sides and dedicating yourself to this pursuit.”
Lizzie Gottlieb also commented on her father’s various eccentric collections, including kitschy Israeli record albums from the 1960s and ’70s.
“Maybe that’s a Talmudic thing as well, like a deep dive into whatever it is that is interesting to him,” she said. “He says that every subject gets more interesting the deeper you get into it. When something strikes him as charming or funny or curious, he goes all the way with it.”
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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