R.I.P. Robert Giroux

If the humble, ink-smudged world of book editing can claim any true heroes, surely Robert Giroux was one of the few and proud. As editor-in-chief of the venerable Farrar, Straus & Giroux publishing house, his exceptional taste helped introduce the world to a constellation of literary luminaries that included Flannery O’ Connor, Bernard Malamud, Robert Lowell, and Susan Sontag (and Jack Kerouac, but nobody’s perfect). And those were just the writers he debuted; the writers he worked with constitute a literary Who’s Who of the twentieth century, from Virginia Woolf to T. S. Eliot to Donald Barthelme. Sadly, Mr. Giroux’s long run of extraordinary style arbitration ended this past Friday, as he died in Tinton Falls, N.J., at the age of 94. (The full Times obituary is available here.) As editors and tastemakers manqué, we salute the old lion—and ask our readers (as we ask ourselves): if a brand-new Woolf novel, Eliot poem, or Barthelme short story came across your desk, could you even figure out what it was, let alone edit it?

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