In the New York world of publishing, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (FSG) is a venerable name. I never knew much about its history.
Years ago, I sent some of the people who worked for me to a seminar in New York City on the basics of copyediting. Although they had worked as editors for quite some time, they, like most of us, had little formal training in the field and I thought this would be a good opportunity for them to get some exposure to the thinking of someone whose job responsibility was managing editors.
The course instructor was a managing editor from FSG with many years of experience.
After the first session (if I recall correctly, it was a 4-weekend course), I asked what had been discussed. What they reported distressed me — it was as if the instructor believed she was still living in the world of 19th century publishing. The instructor said, for example, that computers were a passing fad and that publishers would continue to require editing on paper, so learning how to edit on the computer was a waste of time.
Needless to say, I wondered if the course was a waste of time and/or money. (Turned out it was a waste of both.) I could not understand the instructor’s mindset.
At long last, I can understand the instructor’s thinking. The explanation lies in the book review of Hothouse, by Boris Kachka, in “Anatomy of a Publisher: The Story of Farrar, Straus & Giroux” by Robert Gottlieb, which appears in the current issue of The New Yorker. The review is well worth reading for its insight into the FSG world of publishing from its founding after World War II until its sale to Holtzbrinck.