In literary history, there have been some classic pairings of writers and editors. F. Scoot Fitzgerald may not have become the celebrated author had it not been for his editor Maxwell Perkins. Gordon Lish famously edited Raymond Carver's prose so much that it helped shape the minimalist style Carver would be known for. In the documentary Turn Every Page, the writer/editor relationship of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb is explored. Their relationship is one of legend as well and the film does a good job at making it clear why.
Robert Caro is the author of five best-selling books. Known for his large volumes on Lyndon B. Johnson and perhaps more famously for The Power Broker, Caro has enlightened readers for 5 decades now. His editor Robert Gottlieb has been there for all of them. Directed by Lizzie Gottlieb, daughter of Robert, Turn Every Page is an intimate look at the relationship between these two professionals. I say professionals intentionally as both men are clear their relationship is all about the work. They only see each other when it is time to edit. Their relationship feels unique in this day and age where the author is less valued.
You may be saying to yourself, "I have never read these books, why should I care?" Well, Turn Every Page offers a glimpse into a fading world of publishing and writing. Gottlieb has edited around 600 books that include works by Toni Morrison, Bill Clinton, John le Carré, and Michael Crichton. He claims to have changed "Catch 18" to Catch 22. Caro's books have illuminated how powerful men abuse their position and shape America. Together, these men have made an incredible impact on American literature. Hence, why their partnership is so legendary.
Turn Every Page is also a witty documentary. There is a joy to be found in the humorous exchange between these men. However casual the documentary is at times, it never loses sight of the work that is so central to these men. When they get together, they don't reminisce, they get down to editing. A great scene has them wandering around for a pencil. The back and forth of their work is what works as they both clearly want a book to be the best it can be.
Even if writing and publishing are not your things, Turn Every Page will remind you of the best working partners in your life. Those people who can be brutally honest but always in service of making something better. The two men here exude passion for the work they do and it is infectious.