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The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers
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Published:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2016
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Description
An Amazon Best Book of 2016

A celebration of the writing and editing life, as well as a look behind the scenes at some of the most influential magazines in America (and the writers who made them what they are).

 
You might not know Terry McDonell, but you certainly know his work. Among the magazines he has top-edited: Outside, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated. In this revealing memoir, McDonell talks about what really happens when editors and writers work with deadlines ticking (or drinks on the bar). His stories about the people and personalities he’s known are both heartbreaking and bitingly funny—playing “acid golf” with Hunter S. Thompson, practicing brinksmanship with David Carr and Steve Jobs, working the European fashion scene with Liz Tilberis, pitching TV pilots with Richard Price.

Here, too, is an expert’s practical advice on how to recruit—and keep—high-profile talent; what makes a compelling lede; how to grow online traffic that translates into dollars; and how, in whatever format, on whatever platform, a good editor really works, and what it takes to write well.

Taking us from the raucous days of New Journalism to today’s digital landscape, McDonell argues that the need for clear storytelling from trustworthy news sources has never been stronger. Says Jeffrey Eugenides: “Every time I run into Terry, I think how great it would be to have dinner with him. Hear about the writers he's known and edited over the years, what the magazine business was like back then, how it's changed and where it's going, inside info about Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, Annie Proulx, old New York, and the Swimsuit issue. That dinner is this book.”
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
08/02/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781101946725
ASIN:
B017QLSIKY
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Terry McDonell. (2016). The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Terry McDonell. 2016. The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes On Writing and Writers. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Terry McDonell, The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes On Writing and Writers. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Terry McDonell. The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes On Writing and Writers. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: TERRY McDONELL has won numerous awards for his editorial work at various magazines and websites. He is also a novelist and poet, and has written and produced for film and television. In 2012 he was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame. He is the president of the board of the Paris Review Foundation and serves on the Board of Overseers of the Columbia Journalism Review. He lives in New York City.
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title
The Accidental Life
fullDescription
An Amazon Best Book of 2016

A celebration of the writing and editing life, as well as a look behind the scenes at some of the most influential magazines in America (and the writers who made them what they are).

 
You might not know Terry McDonell, but you certainly know his work. Among the magazines he has top-edited: Outside, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated. In this revealing memoir, McDonell talks about what really happens when editors and writers work with deadlines ticking (or drinks on the bar). His stories about the people and personalities he’s known are both heartbreaking and bitingly funny—playing “acid golf” with Hunter S. Thompson, practicing brinksmanship with David Carr and Steve Jobs, working the European fashion scene with Liz Tilberis, pitching TV pilots with Richard Price.

Here, too, is an expert’s practical advice on how to recruit—and keep—high-profile talent; what makes a compelling lede; how to grow online traffic that translates into dollars; and how, in whatever format, on whatever platform, a good editor really works, and what it takes to write well.

Taking us from the raucous days of New Journalism to today’s digital landscape, McDonell argues that the need for clear storytelling from trustworthy news sources has never been stronger. Says Jeffrey Eugenides: “Every time I run into Terry, I think how great it would be to have dinner with him. Hear about the writers he's known and edited over the years, what the magazine business was like back then, how it's changed and where it's going, inside info about Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, Annie Proulx, old New York, and the Swimsuit issue. That dinner is this book.”
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Dwight Garner, The New York Times
      • content: "Intelligent, entertaining, and chivalrous . . . McDonell, founding editor of Outside magazine in 1977, has had tenures at or near the top of Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Esquire and Sports Illustrated. Slashing costs and watching serious writers take buyouts felt [to him] 'like a great library was burning down.' But The Accidental Life is a fond book. It's a fan's notes from a man who, before the apocalypse, edited and often befriended many of his literary heroes . . . He played touch football and ate oysters with James Salter; golfed while on LSD with Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton; canoed and drank with Peter Matthiessen; and helped explode an uptight dinner party alongside Edward Abbey . . . McDonell's insistence on keeping the focus on his writers rather than himself has a humble appeal--this memoir is far from self-congratulatory. He writes winningly about his regrets [and] evokes the magazine-world heyday of lavish offices, drinks carts in...
      • premium: False
      • source: ELLE Magazine
      • content: "If you dig New Journalism, Ed Abbey, fiction, nonfiction, Western writers and their New York editors, and the good old days of Elaine's, you will eat up McDonell's memoir/literary history. Damn, that sounded like fun."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        May 2, 2016
        Early on in this engaging memoir, McDonell jokingly defines hubris as his hope, when starting out, that “I could become a great editor, by editing great writers and getting to know them.” As this book’s short, anecdote-rich chapters show, hope became reality during a career that included stints at Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Newsweek. McDonell covers the nuts and bolts of getting weekly and monthly magazines out—deadlines, budgets, ad sales, cover selections—and the transition from print to digital media; these sections have the same verve that energizes his profiles of people whose talents he tapped, including Thomas McGuane, Peter Matthiessen, Jim Harrison, Richard Price, and Richard Ford. His prose zings with witty insights, such as this recent appraisal of a 2005 blog post about a panel discussion dismissing the Internet’s relevance to journalism: “Reading it was like snorkeling over a ship that had wrecked on the hidden reefs of some long-ago trade route.” He also writes with great warmth about former colleagues, likening his rowdy relationship with George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson to the plot of Treasure Island: “Adventurous boy kidnapped by pirates; joins pirates.” This book will fascinate anyone interested in what goes on behind the scenes in publishing. 18 b&w photos. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        May 15, 2016
        The former editor of Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated looks back.After 40 years as journalist, editor, and magazine founder, McDonell celebrates his career with a collection of short pieces that include acerbic commentaries on the media, tender remembrances of friends and colleagues, and cogent advice to editors and writers. Sharp profiles feature "vaguely menacing" Hunter S. Thompson, moody Kurt Vonnegut, elegant Paris Review editor George Plimpton, and "princely and brooding" Steve Jobs, among many others. McDonell defines his life as "accidental": "Ideas got broken and jobs didn't work out. Friends faded. Love failed. But the thing was, no matter how strange or rocky it got, there was redemption in the work. That was not accidental." He loved editing, which, he says, is "never only about the words" but also images, typography, display copy, and "polish and nuance." He admires precision (Gay Talese's sentences, he remarks, were unfailingly "immaculate"), advises writers to "cut anything precious, overly clever or self-indulgent," and admonishes reporters: "Check your sources." Among the most moving pieces are homages to friends, including irreverent Harper's Bazaar editor Elizabeth Tilberis; novelist James Salter; and Peter Matthiessen, a writer whose work McDonell finds "astonishing in its range." The author portrays the unlikely friendship between George Plimpton and Hunter Thompson, fueled by their love of cocaine. He also offers withering anecdotes about Jobs, who came to Newsweek in 1984, "wearing a sharp suit and tiny bow tie," to sell staff on "the greatest tool ever": the Apple computer. In 2010, an imperious Jobs arrived at Time, Inc., seated at the head of a table of top editors who fiddled with soon-to-be released iPads. McDonell, who founded LitHub, does not bemoan digital media, but he regrets that "digital content" meetings rarely focus on the quality of journalism. A wide-ranging, smart, and witty collection testifying to an impressive career.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from August 1, 2016
        As a former top-of-the-masthead editor at Outside, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated, McDonell has been there and done that over four decades of dramatic change in the newsstand magazine business. Along the way, he's edited and drunk with a who's who of American writers that includes Kurt Vonnegut, Jim Harrison, Edward Abbey, Thomas McGuane, Peter Matthiessen, Richard Ford, Richard Price, and Hunter S. Thompson. Oh, and he's also the guy who tried to inject more culture and humor into SI's cash cow, the swimsuit issue. Naturally, McDonell has stories to tell, and he tells plenty of them in this unfailingly fascinating look at that point where publishing, literature, and celebrity meet. McDonell learned from his mentor, the Other Bob Sherrill, that the most important thing an editor should think about is a magazine's mix of stories, and this collection is the perfect example of that axiom, blending showstoppers like an account of playing acid golf with Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton together with perceptive appreciations of the work of McDonell's favorite writers (he's particularly sharp on McGuane), and fascinating snippets on the craft of editing (what makes a good lede or a great headline). Expect this book to find a home on the desks of just about everyone who has anything to do with magazine publishing (or who likes to read about hanging out at Elaine's with famous writers).(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 15, 2016

        Part memoir, part retrospective, veteran publishing executive McDonell (editor, Time Inc. Sports Group) has produced a fascinating account of 20th-century publishing, journalism, writing, and authors from the perspective of one thoroughly entrenched in the culture and increasingly variable climate of the profession. Each essay provides a glimpse into the people, places, and personalities of the magazine industry, as well as tidbits and lessons learned from McDonell's colleagues and friends. The stories build upon one another, flowing into a narrative that reads as easily as fiction while retaining a journalistic quality (be true to one's sources; let others know where one stands). McDonell's account charts a trajectory that follows the rise of major voices in American composition and journalism, as well as the seemingly inevitable challenge of keeping pace with the changing landscape of news and media. VERDICT This engrossing look at publishing and the role of emerging technologies on print will engage readers of popular culture studies, journalism, and the lives of 20th-century literary figures. [See Prepub Alert, 2/29/16.]--Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 15, 2016

        McDonell is known by everyone who knows anything about publishing for having edited Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and Outside, among other publications, and for leading the charge to digital media; most recently, he helped found LitHub. Here he offers portraits of media stars from Hunter S. Thompson to Steve Jobs while discussing how to find the best writers, write the best headlines, and build online traffic. In the end, it's a lesson on how editors really work.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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An Amazon Best Book of 2016

A celebration of the writing and editing life, as well as a look behind the scenes at some of the most influential magazines in America (and the writers who made them what they are).

 
You might not know Terry McDonell, but you certainly know his work. Among the magazines he has top-edited: Outside, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated. In this revealing memoir, McDonell talks about what really happens when editors and writers work with deadlines ticking (or drinks on the bar). His stories about the people and personalities he’s known are both heartbreaking and bitingly funny—playing “acid golf” with Hunter S. Thompson, practicing brinksmanship with David Carr and Steve Jobs, working the European fashion scene with Liz Tilberis, pitching TV pilots with Richard Price.

Here, too, is an expert’s practical advice on how to recruit—and...
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group