Ruth Reichl's Post-Gourmet Gig: Random House Author -- and Editor?

Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl

After the surprise shuttering of Gourmet magazine by Conde Nast last fall, Ruth Reichl, its editor-in-chief, was out of a job for the first time in 10 years. While the 70-year-old title is back as an iPad app, Reichl herself has moved away from magazines and back to book publishing, as author and editor.

Random House announced Reichl's next two works of nonfiction ---a cookbook called The Tao of Ruth, a memoir of her Conde Nast years and a novel, Delicious, would be published by the house's eponymous imprint and edited by editor-in-chief Susan Kamil. Reichl is no stranger both to books, as the bestselling author of memoirs Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples, and to Random House, which published her earliest book-length works.

What's new is that in addition to working with Kamil in as an author, Reichl will report to Kamil as an editor-at-large for the imprint. In a statement, Reichl said she's "especially excited to have the opportunity to participate in the future of food writing as both an author and a book editor" and that she'll focus specifically on "established and debuting authors who are expanding our food horizons."

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Little Random, as the imprint is known, is following past precedent in creating an editor-at-large position. Back in 2007, when the imprint shuffled around editorial personnel after then-Editor-in-Chief Daniel Menaker left the company, Spy co-founder and perennial media columnist Kurt Andersen was brought in as an editor-at-large with an eye toward acquiring and editing nonfiction. Andersen's last novel, Heyday, had been published earlier that year, and he had just signed a new two-book deal with the imprint, the first of which became Reset, an account of the economic crisis, published in 2009.

But based on precedent, don't expect Reichl to edit very many books. Though DailyFinance contacted both Andersen and Kamil and will report back accordingly, it's rather hard to find any reference to a book Andersen has acquired and edited for the company. (See update below.) That suggests his editorial role is more ceremonial than proper, and it further suggests that Reichl's "newly created role" is the newest (and hardly cheap) example of a de facto naming of a well-known media figure to publishing circles for decorative purposes.

Update: Former Publihers Weekly deals reporter Matthew Thornton points to his October 2007 report of two books Andersen acquired and edited: a memoir by media entrepreneur Bob Nylen published last year, and Douglas E. Schoen's Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two-party System, which was published in February 2008.