Robert Gottlieb, the editor who got his start with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 92. His death was confirmed by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Gottlieb worked on such 20th-century-defining books as Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, and Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life.
“From the day 52 years ago that we first looked at my pages together, Bob understood what I was trying to do and made it possible for me to take the time, and do the work, I needed to do,” Caro said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press. “People talk to me about some of the triumphant moments Bob and I shared, but today I remember other moments, tough ones, and I remember how Bob was always, always, for half a century, there for me. He was a great friend, and today I mourn my friend with all my heart.”
Gottlieb was editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster and, later, editor-at-large at Alfred A. Knopf. He also edited The New Yorker from 1987 to 1992, where he was known for breaking custom and letting swear words enter the mag. Gottlieb paid Heller $1,500 for Catch-22 and suggested the title. The list of writers he worked with looks like a survey of 20th-century literature: Morrison, Caro, Heller, V.S. Naipaul, John le Carré, Nora Ephron, Michael Crichton. Gottlieb also edited memoirs by Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Bill Clinton.