New York, NY, 8 July, 2020 – Doubleday announced today that Nan A. Talese, President, Publisher & Editorial Director of her eponymous imprint, will retire at the end of the year, concluding a remarkable and trailblazing career of more than six decades.
Nan’s wide-ranging tastes – from literary fiction to biography to history to narrative nonfiction – have shaped American reading habits over the past fifty years, during which she championed some of the world’s most renowned and beloved writers.
Known for her keen eye and discerning editorial notes, Nan has made an indelible impression on the publishing world since leaving Vogue and joining Random House in 1959 as a copy editor. She was later promoted to literary editor, the first woman in that position, holding her own and working with writers such as A. E. Hotchner and Robert Penn Warren, among many others. Nan followed her time at Random House with renowned stints at Simon and Schuster, where she edited SCHINDLER’S LIST, and Houghton Mifflin, where she acquired THE HANDMAID’S TALE and THE PRINCE OF TIDES.
Since starting her imprint at Doubleday in 1990, Nan has published a stellar list of authors including Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Adam Haslett, Alex Kotlowitz, Pat Conroy, Thomas Keneally, Mia Farrow, Jim Crace, Valerie Martin, Peter Ackroyd, Mary Morris, Louis Begley, Jennifer Egan, Mark Richard, Judy Collins, Barry Unsworth, Antonia Fraser, Thomas Cahill, Janet Wallach, and George Plimpton.
“While she is a pioneer in publishing, Nan is first and foremost a reader, and her passion for books is well-known,” says Maya Mavjee, President and Publisher, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. “She has made a lasting mark on the world of American letters, all the while remaining a cherished and dedicated colleague. Most important, Nan has been a fierce advocate for her authors and their books. Her vast intellect as well as her editorial and publishing acumen will be sorely missed.”
“From my first days of selling her list a few decades ago and onward, it has always been a supreme honor to work with Nan and to be connected to her books,” says Madeline McIntosh, CEO, Penguin Random House US. “Nan’s brilliance, generosity of spirit, and editorial expertise have changed the bookselling world at large. We will all miss working with her immensely.”
“No editor has seen so many changes and done so much in publishing as the legendary and much beloved Nan Talese, known fondly to some as ‘the Nanster,’” says Margaret Atwood. “She first came into my life at Simon and Schuster, then dragged me behind her troika as she galloped through the wilderness to Houghton Mifflin — where she acquired THE HANDMAID’S TALE sight unseen, in a preemptive bid — and then sashayed over to Doubleday. ‘Nanster, what are you doing?’ I cried in dismay. ‘I like a challenge,’ she said calmly, adjusting her white beret and trademark pearls. I can’t imagine her actually ‘retiring.’ It’s a figure of speech. She will continue reading, and reading my work, I hope, and offering commentary: ‘None of these people are very nice.’”
“Nan’s retirement in December this year will define one of the greatest publishing careers in the English-speaking world,” says Ian McEwan. “Writers and readers alike have been blessed by her supreme editorial judgement and total commitment to new writing. She has fought like a tigress for her authors, for the quality of their work, and for its presentation to the world. In turn, her authors have been wise in their loyalty. Her inimitable style is marked by restless curiosity, boundless charm, and sheer delight in her work. To her writers she has always been the ultimate friend. Writers and publishing colleagues all know and love the gaiety and shimmer she cast around the restaurant table. Who else in publishing ever dressed in such impeccable style? My own beginnings with Nan date from 1977 when she flew out to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in order to meet me and read my then unnamed first novel. (I had refused to send it to her out of reticence and youthful arrogance.) She suggested a title for it, THE CEMENT GARDEN, and published it in dashing high style. I’ve been happily and gratefully bound to her ever since. On retirement she’ll have all the bucolic pleasures of a lovely book-filled house in Connecticut. But she’s a New Yorker to the last cell in her body and she’ll be back. The deep, lifelong friendships she has made in the city and around the world will never let her go. She’s a wonder.”
“I first met Nan Talese in the Rib Room of the Royal Orleans Hotel. It was May of 1986, and the ABA Convention had come to New Orleans,” says Valerie Martin. “My friend Margaret Atwood had sent Nan three of my manuscripts, two novels and a story collection. As Nan was going to be in town, her assistant had called to set up a lunch date. I didn’t have high hopes. Editors are perfectly capable of taking a writer to lunch to soften the blow. I had no idea what Nan Talese looked like, but her reputation was formidable. I presented myself to the maître de at the desk and said I was meeting Nan Talese. His face lit up in a way I would come to know – as those who spend even a few moments in Nan’s company invariably feel a little rush of pleasure at the sound of her name. And there she was, perfectly beautiful and elegant, smiling and rising from her chair to introduce herself in that airy, polished, delighted voice that suggests we are in for some very good fun. I took my seat, ordered a glass of white wine. Nan fluttered a bit about receiving the novels from Margaret. I was braced for the delicate but definite letdown. She sipped her tea; my wine arrived. She settled the cup in the saucer and folded her hands. ‘I think we’ll start with the stories,’ she said. There is no other editor like Nan Talese in the publishing world. She doesn’t care about profit. She is brave, determined, generous, and passionate about her writers. She changes lives. She changed mine.”
Nan was the first person to receive the Center for Fiction’s Maxwell E. Perkins Award for lifetime achievement in 2005. Additionally, Nan’s authors have won and been nominated for many prestigious awards, including the Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the NBCC, and the Pulitzer Prize. In the past year alone, Margaret Atwood’s THE TESTAMENTS won the 2019 Booker Prize and Alex Kotlowitz’s AN AMERICAN SUMMER won the 2020 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize.
Nan’s grace, brilliance, and steel will (she has been given the nickname “the Velvet Hammer”) have endeared her to her writers, her coworkers, and the bookselling industry at large. The impact Nan has had on the literary landscape is immeasurable, and we are proud to have Penguin Random House bookend her legendary career.
ABOUT NAN A. TALESE/DOUBLEDAY AND PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE:
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday is an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Their parent company is Bertelsmann AG, the international media company.
For more information, please contact: Todd Doughty, SVP, Deputy Publisher of Doubleday | 212-782-9796 or email@example.com