“I’ve got the name for our publishing operation. We just said we were going to publish a few books on the side at random. Let’s call it Random House.” So recounts Bennett Cerf in this wonderfully amusing memoir of the making of a great publishing house. An incomparable raconteur, possessed of an irrepressible wit and an abiding love of books and authors, Cerf brilliantly evokes the heady days of Random House’s first decades.
Part of the vanguard of young New York publishers who revolutionized the book business in the 1920s and ’30s, Cerf helped usher in publishing’s golden age. Cerf was a true personality, whose other pursuits (columnist, anthologist, author, lecturer, radio host, collector of jokes and anecdotes, perennial judge of the Miss America pageant, and panelist on What’s My Line?) helped shape his reputation as a man of boundless energy and enthusiasm and brought unprecedented attention to his company and to his authors. At once a rare behind-the-scenes account of book publishing and a fascinating portrait of four decades’ worth of legendary authors, from James Joyce and William Faulkner to Ralph Ellison and Eudora Welty, At Random is a feast for bibliophiles and anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on inside a publishing house.