In 1990, Duke Magazine explored the publishing world through the eyes of Robert Loomis '49, then thirty-three years into a career as an editor at Random House. Loomis had seen major changes in the industry, as companies merged and advances paid to would-be authors jumped. He'd also edited some successful books; a year and a half earlier, two of his authors, Pete Dexter and Neil Sheehan, had won National Book Awards for fiction and nonfiction, respectively—an unprecedented feat in editing. Nine years later, Loomis was again consulted for a magazine feature that discussed the fate of the book in the coming century. At the time, he was working on Edmund Morris' controversial Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan.
The publishing industry continues to evolve, but Robert Loomis, now eighty years old, remains a constant. In January, at a black-tie event hosted by the New York Public Library, Random House celebrated Loomis' fifty years with the company.
The tables were decorated with centerpieces featuring book jackets from some of his most famous editing jobs. Over the course of his career, Loomis has edited the likes of William Styron '47—whose work he had previously redacted as a student editor for The Archive, Duke's undergraduate literary magazine—Maya Angelou, Shelby Foote, and Jim Lehrer. Many of the writers who attended the event, including Angelou and Lehrer, praised Loomis' skill.
Retirement, it should be noted, is not in sight. Among the books Loomis is currently working on are a third volume of Edmund Morris' biography of Theodore Roosevelt and a new book by Neil Sheehan—the same Neil Sheehan who, under Loomis' guidance, took home that 1988 National Book Award for A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.
"Where the Written Word Reigns": Update
June 1, 2007