An Alpha­bet­i­cal Life

Wendy Wer­ris
  • Review
By – March 26, 2012

There are many links in the chain that con­nects writ­ers to read­er, like the fact that all man­u­fac­tured objects books must be sold by their mak­ers, or their exis­tence as the cen­ter of a prof­itable enter­prise will be threat­ened with extinc­tion. Thus after edit­ing and print­ing them, pub­lish­ers place their books in the hands of mar­ket­ing and sales staffs which pro­mote them and intro­duce them to book­stores and libraries. This mem­oir describes the life of a publisher’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, or book rep,” one of a live­ly and rol­lick­ing bunch of sales peo­ple with an impor­tant mis­sion: to sell book­sellers on the val­ue of the books whose pub­lish­ers they represent.

In this jaun­ty sto­ry of her career in the book world, Wer­ris describes her acci­den­tal jour­ney from a tem­po­rary job at the famed Los Ange­les Pick­wick Book­shop into the male-dom­i­nat­ed world of whole­sale book sell­ing where she found adven­ture and suc­cess, and many notable char­ac­ters. Her life as a rep was peo­pled with her career com­rades, the oth­er book reps, as well as the buy­ers for book­stores and the authors she met and often assist­ed. Adding shape and mean­ing to this mem­oir are Wendy’s fam­i­ly and friends, whose influ­ence and fail­ings and sup­port led to her some­times lone­ly and some­what rau­cous life style. All are por­trayed with lov­ing atten­tion to the details and quirks that bring their char­ac­ters to life. 

A nice Jew­ish girl in a com­pet­i­tive man’s world needs all the help she can get, and her prin­ci­pal resources were her Brook­lyn Jew­ish back­ground and the com­ic view she inher­it­ed from her father, a suc­cess­ful com­e­dy writer. Book lovers and oth­er read­ers will find in this mem­oir a refresh­ing plunge into an unfa­mil­iar aspect of the book busi­ness, as well as a suc­ces­sion of eccen­tric and some­times famous char­ac­ters. Acknowl­edg­ments, index, list of publishers.

Claire Rudin is a retired direc­tor of the New York City school library sys­tem and for­mer librar­i­an at the Holo­caust Resource Cen­ter and Archives in Queens, NY. She is the author of The School Librar­i­an’s Source­book and Chil­dren’s Books About the Holocaust.

Discussion Questions