Thursday, March 10, 2011

Owen Laster, Friend and Mentor, and a Truly Great Man

Owen Laster, 1938-2011

Like many others both inside and outside the publishing world, I owe an immeasurable debt to the great Owen Laster for his principled example of how to conduct the business of agenting (and, by extension, the affairs of living in general) with unparalleled honor and equanimity.

Among the guiding lights in the publishing world, Owen was one of the brightest, and certainly the brightest for me.  In the fourteen years since I left William Morris, we had dinner every one or two months, and spoke more often.  He was quick to point out where I was right or wrong, but equally quick to suggest a way out that would work for all parties involved.  His impact on my life was all pervasive, and I will miss him dearly.

Read William Grimes' New York Times obituary for Owen, a post about Owen by Robert Gottlieb on Publishers Lunch, Hillel Italie's AP obituary, Variety's obituary, and a wonderful post by Glenn Plaskin on his web site, "A Spring Lunch with a Legend."

Ed Victor has written a wonderful piece about Owen for Book Brunch, in which he writes:
He was someone of immense strength of character – always his own man, guided by his own sense of rectitude, even if, every now and then, he had to disagree with company policy. Editors and publishers who worked with him knew they could rely on him to be absolutely straight with them. Someone once said, accurately, that it was odd that a Jewish man could be the epitome of the true Christian. But that was true of Owen – he had an internal compass that always pointed to a moral North.