In a deliberate effort to read “more than just novels” this summer, I picked up McDonell’s 2016 collections of memories and recollections, (subtitle: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers) from my local public library. The author shamelessly name-dropped (in a good way) sports figures names like Tiger Woods; authors like Hunter S. Thompson and Hemingway; and twentieth and twenty-first century celebs like Frank Sinatra, the Kennedys, Jack Nicholson, and Steve Jobs. Most of his stories and recollections of meeting and working with these notables were fascinating. I admit that I did not read every selection/chapter, for I knew nothing about some famous sportswriters or even about some of the literary “who’s who.” Roy Blount, Jr. says on the back cover, “McDonell knew the wildest writers, edited most of them, and he remembers a great deal.” In his careers as editor at Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ), McDonell came face to face and often toe to toe with the eccentricities and demands of writers. He was often “in on” plans for the next “big” undertaking of the writers, and his impressions were so accurate that he cold have been excused for saying, “I told you so.”
Tom Brokow called McDonell, “…one of the prominent editors in the world of popular magazines.” Interspersed with the author’s recollections about writers and editing magazines are helpful asides to authors and editors as well. Here is a writer who writes on writing and an editor who writes on editing. Overall, The Accidental Life is interesting and helpful, especially for magazine readers.