NEW YORK — It was a mid-life move, James H. Silberman explained of his decision 10 years ago to leave Random House and start a new publishing company called Summit. Certainly there were those who questioned his judgment at the time, but this week, any such doubts were forgotten as old friends, clients, colleagues gathered at the Four Seasons Grill to help him celebate a decade that has seen at least one best seller per year for Summit.
Silberman's authors and their literary friends were there in force: Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel, "Women's Room" author Marilyn French, feminist founding mother Betty Friedan, novelist Judith Rossner, historian/literary critic Paul Fussell, psychologist Anne Roiphe, playwright Elizabeth Swados. And then there were the publishing people: Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner accepted Silberman's invitation; so did Betty Rollin, Colette Dowling, "superagent" Morton L. Janklow and others.
Reflecting on what has accounted for a decade of success, Silberman said, "Without making it sound naive, I think Summit is a publishing house that is not, as they say now, 'market driven,' but based on editorial taste. I don't necessarily mean editorial good taste, though one hopes for that," Silberman said, "and I may be misrepresenting the so-called market-driven houses. But what it seems to be is 'What do they want to read now?' as opposed to 'I like this.' "
Housed within the notoriously market-driven juggernaut of Simon & Schuster, Summit draws from the sales, art, production and design resources of its parent corporation, but, says Silberman, "editorially, Summit is very separate." With nine employees, Summit publishes and edits about 50 titles each year.
Silberman himself was groomed in the publishing craft by none other than Bennett Cerf, a mentor who taught him to follow his instincts. "I would rather help find new people, or newer people, people involved in a transformation of some kind," he said, citing "the first book we ever did, 'The Women's Room'."
Is quality profitable? Silberman smiled. "Oh yeah."
LUCKY DEVIL: Kingsley Amis has won England's top literary award, the Booker Prize, for his novel "The Old Devils." Other contenders this year for the $21,000 award and the British spotlight were: Margaret Atwood for "The Handmaid's Tale," Paul Bailey for "Gabriel's Lament," Robertson Davies for "What's Bred in the Bone," Kazuo Ishiguro for "An Artist of the Floating World" and Timothy Mo for "An Insular Possession." Summit will publish "The Old Devils" in the United States in March, 1987.
CORY, CORY: Random House will publish the autobiography of Philippine President Corazon Aquino in the winter of 1987-88. No financial details of the transaction have been revealed.
AND THE WINNER IS: Joseph Nagy, of UCLA's Department of English, has won third prize in the Chicago Folklore Prize competition for his "Wisdom of the Outlaw."
YOU KNEW HE COULD SING, BUT WHO KNEW HE COULD SHOOT? It seems that when traveling from coast to coast, entertainer Kenny Rogers does not leave home without his trusty camera. Hence, "Kenny Rogers' America" (Little Brown: $24.95), a collection of Rogers' photographic impressions of our country.
DAER YNA DOOG SKOOB YLETAL?: The not-so-secret password to the new Waldenbooks Kids' Club, geared to children ages 6 to 12, is skoob. (That's books spelled backward; how silly of you to have asked.) Children can pick up their password along with their doorknob hanger, membership card and poster at any Waldenbooks outlet. Membership will entitle the bearer of a card (or anyone in the child's immediate family) to a 10% discount on $5 to $15 worth of children's books, and a 15% discount on purchases of more than $15. The Waldenbooks Kids' Club Magazine is available for $1.95 to non-members, and 99 cents for club members. Walden's book clubs in romance, science fiction, mystery and its children's birthday club, claim about 1.2 million members.
SHOOTING SHERLOCK'S: Fans of Sherlock's Home, the mystery and suspense bookstore in the Naples area of Long Beach, may recognize some of the sets in CBS' new "Clue: Motives, Murder & Mystery." In what owner Beth Caswell describes as a "marathon filming session" that lasted "literally from dawn to dusk," every corner of the mysterious bookstore was filmed in detail to serve as backdrops for the series. Along with her pet Maltese Falcon, owner Caswell also appears in a cameo role.
PUBLISHING THE GREAT HELMSMAN: Santa Barbara Press will release next month "Snow Glistens on the Great Wall," the complete poetry of Mao Tse-tung as translated by Ma Wen-yee. Deng Xiaoping has thus far declined comment.