Robert Gottlieb on ‘Garbo’ and ‘Babbitt’

Writer and editor Robert Gottlieb is doing double duty in this week’s podcast. He recounts the life and career of Sinclair Lewis, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of ‘Babbitt’, Lewis’s best-selling novel about the narrow-mindedness and conformity of middle-class America in the first half of the 20th century. But first, he talks about his own new book, “Garbo,” a biography of the movie star Greta Garbo, whose impact on culture was matched by the sense of mystery that surrounded her.

“I understood the power of the impact, but I didn’t really understand — because I hadn’t seen her movies, I was too young — I didn’t really understand what she was on screen and how she got to the screen in the first place. So as usual, it was curiosity that prompted me to write about her,” said Gottlieb. “No one had ever looked like her before, and no one has looked like her since. So finding out what those qualities were became the subject of the book. .”

Carl Bernstein visits the podcast to discuss his new memoir, “Chasing History.” The book is about a time before Bernstein and Bob Woodward became household names for their Watergate reporting. Bernstein’s memoir, entitled “A Kid in the Newsroom,” focuses on the 1960s-65s, when he worked at The Evening Star in Washington, then the main rival of The Washington Post.. He was first hired as a copyboy when he was only 16.

“I spent a lot of time in the billiard room,” Bernstein says of his life before he got the job. “I got terrible grades in school. I worked on Saturdays in a cheap department store in a bad part of town.” He saw a brighter future at the newspaper. “The greatest reporters of their time, many of them were on this newsroom. And I saw what they were doing, and I studied what they were doing and I knew I wanted to do that.”

Also in this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has some news from the publishing industry; and Jennifer Szalai and Molly Young talk about the books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed by The Times critics this week:

We’d love to hear what you think about this episode, and about the Book Review podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.

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