Work Title: An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the Business of Books
Work Author(s): Wendy Werris
Carroll & Graf
336 pages, Softcover $15.95
Reviewer: Aimee Sabo
"Mad poets. Gay men. Hilarious alcoholics ... They all worked at Pickwick and would soon become my extended family."
In this humorous and moving memoir, the author charts her journey from summer clerk at the legendary Pickwick Bookshop in Hollywood to sales representative for high-profile publishing houses such as Phaidon and Oxford University Press. Werris's candid look at the changing landscape of the book business during the past thirty-five years, coupled with insights about how literature has shaped her personal life, paint a portrait of a lady who truly loves her job.
Readers with ties to the publishing industry will get a particular kick out of Werris's insider stories. She describes early friendships with luminaries such as Fran Lebowitz and George Baxt; the revolutionary shift from manual inventory to computers; and her exasperating attempts as a rookie rep in 1978 to convince booksellers that an odd-sounding novel by an unknown author named John Irving was a guaranteed bestseller.
As one of the first female book reps in the business, Werris pioneered the way for a future generation, enduring a mix of hostility and condescension as she navigated the old boys' club of publishing. Both then and now, the author credits her sense of humor as her coat of armor. Recalling her stint as the sole female rep in the early days of Microsoft Press, Werris relates an embarrassing sales meeting in which she innocently asked her new...