The Editor by Steven Rowley
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 308 pages, $27
Emerson College alum Steven Rowley dives into the publishing world in his second novel, The Editor, set in the ’90s, as protagonist James Smale gets an editor whose name shouts from the rooftop: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
After learning that he’s writing about his mother, the former first lady takes a deep interest in working with James, as she senses some unfinished mysteries that are related to his life in the novel. Her therapeutic intuition, delivered with that famous grace, leads James to reconnect with his mother—who had long ago kicked out her husband for objecting to their son’s evolving gayness. During recent years, she’d been stonewalling James in peculiar ways; now, she’s outraged to be in his book.
Starstruck—as readers will also be—James stays with Jackie on Martha’s Vineyard and follows her gentle guidance to the painful, necessary relearning about his life. The two are well attuned as Jackie edits him, inside and out. Eventually, James’ mother confesses a family secret that leads the novelist on a search for more answers. Meanwhile, James’ amusing and frisky relationship with lover Daniel goes through a brief downturn. James flirts with Jackie’s assistant, Mark, which makes for some sexy scenes. But the expectable dramas of James’ life-changing events soon settle down. Exciting and dramatic, Rowley’s book is also wryly funny.
From page 18: Laughter. It’s almost indescribable, the feeling of making her laugh. Like somehow all is right with the world, even if this laugh is at my expense.
“Are we speaking existentially?
“No, no. Despite how my questions sounds. I’m genuinely asking.”
“Why are you here, as opposed to another author?”
“Why my book?”
Mrs. Onassis flips back the pages that are folded over the binding of her legal pad and sets her pen down on top of it. “Well, books are a journey. And I’m always excited to embark on a journey I haven’t taken before. So I wanted to meet you, James.” ◆