As I said, a good memoir reads like fiction, with the author in the role of the protagonist. Not that it should be a series of dramatic scenes with the plot of the author’s life, but the events need to be recounted dramatically, and the author—the hero—is necessarily an invention, a character. This book  seems to have been written from your intuitive grasp of this reality about memoir, which is why so much of it is entertaining and why I believe readers will care about you even if they don’t know you personally.

 A good memoir also tells the truth about its author. Not the facts, a great many of which may be honorably withheld. In reviewing Kazan in the Times, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. concluded by describing A Life as “the impassioned testament of an artist who has done his valiant best to tell the truth about himself.” You’ve omitted a lot of facts, which is fine. The omission of the truth of much of your feelings (though excitement is conveyed with stunning effectiveness) hurts the memoir.

 A truth you’ve withheld about yourself that I think you shouldn’t is your volatile personality, your extremes of temperament. You already come across as passionate, extraordinarily eloquent, full of surprises, given to extremes. It will come as no surprise to the reader to learn that you possessed (until later years, when you mellowed!) a temperament that made you difficult to live with and work for. You needn’t go into self-analysis—you can simply say you tended to get carried away with the urgency of the moment and ranted, sometimes scaring the daylights out of people or infuriating them.

You’re very good at capturing the atmosphere of the era you’re writing about, whether it be the political climate or the way things worked in publishing. But from time to time you dramatize events with so much detail that readers will experience fatigue or burnout trying to keep track of all the names and developments. I’ve given you some guidelines for cutting and tightening. You’re too close to your story to sense where it’s overkill.

What I’ve done in the document that follows is go through the book, pointing out places where I think you’re losing your readers and making suggestions to keep that from happening. I’ve seldom stopped for praise, so let me cover that base here: I’ve loved working on this memoir. Its flaws you can and will fix. It’s an energetic, provocative, surprising, engaging memoir, as full of twists and turns as a good novel.