Success has always been easy to measure. It is the distance between one's origins and one's final achievement.
Escapism sold books, to be sure, but not nearly as many as were sold by exposing America’s flaws and making the average American reader (and book club member) look closely at his or her most cherished social assumptions. Americans might not be eager to accept integration, feminism, homosexuality, juvenile delinquency, and the drug culture– or to shoulder the blame for the existence of these problems– but they were certainly willing to read about them.
Peter Fleming was a famous English traveler, explorer and adventurer, whose non-fiction books were hugely successful. My father owned signed copies of all of them - he and Peter Fleming had become acquainted over some detail of set design at the Korda film studio in Shepperton - and I had read each of them with breathless adolescent excitement.
Some people are so famous that the legends about them and the cultural aftermath of their life altogether obscure the real human being.
The purely agitation attitude is not good enough for a detailed consideration of a subject.
Patton's personality was a complex one - he was obsessed with glory, but behind the ivory-hilted pistols, the egomania, the forbidding scowl, and the rows of ribbons, there was a much more ambiguous figure.
The relationship between stars and their fans is always ambivalent and often highly charged with contradictory and ambivalent emotions, of which the most powerful is need.
It used to be that the highest ambition of American novelists was to write 'the Great American Novel,' that great white whale of American fiction that would encompass all the American experience in one great book.
FDR had a certain charisma, at least in his first term, with the big grin, the cigarette holder at a jaunty angle, and the battered hat on his imposing head, but no other American president since then has had it except JFK - indeed, some of them have been positively anti-charismatic, like Gerald Ford, Carter, and the Bushes.
I'm always astonished when I go into Barnes & Noble at the number of people buying books, of course, but also at the variety of books they do buy and the extent to which they are not the big bestsellers.
When the Second World War came to an end in Europe, my uncle Sir Alexander Korda was the first filmmaker to reopen offices in Germany and Austria.
For a brief moment, Ian Fleming made being an Englishman seem sexy, even to the French. He should have been awarded a knighthood, even possibly the Garter.
Citizens of Rome might boast that the claim of 'Civus romanus sum' set them apart from barbarians and slaves, and it was true up to a point, but Roman citizens lived in a society that accepted pain, cruelty, and torture as the norm, and in which there was no suggestion of equality at birth or mercy in the afterlife.
The bestseller list is the tip of the iceberg.
Many years ago, I had the pleasure of editing a book by Joan Crawford, who, like Norma Desmond, was still a big star; it was just the movies that had gotten smaller.
I once attended a birthday party where Danny Kaye dropped in to entertain the birthday boy and his guests; I was sometimes taken for lunch on Saturdays by my father to The Brown Derby; and my favorite meal is still the Cobb salad in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The French consider themselves the guardians of the world's culture and do not bother to hide the fact, which is annoying, but Paris is still where good Americans want to go when they die - and Brits, Russians, and Chinese as well, these days.
When I started work at Simon & Schuster in 1958, each of us got a bronze paperweight on which was written, in raised type, 'Give the reader a break,' Richard E. Simon.
I always thought of myself as a kind of literary bureaucrat. And that was never going to be enough for me.
In Eastern Europe, the past is not only always hovering over the present, it is not even passed. It waits, like some malevolent caged beast, ready at any moment to escape and bring back all the horrors.