Edi­tor Ju­dith Jones dies at 93

JU­DITH JONES, 1924 – 2017

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - as­so­ci­ated press news.obits@la­times.com

A gourmet her­self, she pub­lished Ju­lia Child’s de­but cook­book.

Ju­dith Jones, a con­sum­mate lit­er­ary edi­tor who helped rev­o­lu­tion­ize Amer­i­can cui­sine by pub­lish­ing Ju­lia Child and other ground­break­ing cook­book au­thors, worked for decades with John Updike and Anne Tyler and helped in­tro­duce English­language read­ers to “The Di­ary of Anne Frank,” has died at age 93.

Jones, who spent more than 50 years at Al­fred A. Knopf be­fore re­tir­ing in 2011, died early Wed­nes­day at her sum­mer home in Walden, Vt. Her step­daugh­ter, Bron­wyn Dunne, said she died of com­pli­ca­tions from Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Few bet­ter em­bod­ied and lived out the ideal of a life in New York pub­lish­ing than Jones, whom Tyler once praised, both as a per­son and as an edi­tor, as “very del­i­cate and grace­ful, al­most weight­less.” Jones worked at one of the lead­ing pub­lish­ing houses with some of the world’s most beloved au­thors. She thrived even as Knopf evolved from a fam­ily-run busi­ness to part of the in­ter­na­tional con­glom­er­ate Ber­tels­mann AG.

Movie­go­ers would learn about her in “Julie & Ju­lia,” the 2009 film star­ring Meryl Streep as Child and fea­tur­ing Erin Dilly as Jones. In the early ’60s, she signed up the then-un­known Child and “Mas­ter­ing the Art of French Cook­ing,” a land­mark re­lease that caught on again decades later thanks to “Julie & Ju­lia.” Tyler, how­ever, thought the movie “stupid” be­cause of a scene in which Jones backs out of a din­ner at an au­thor’s home be­cause it’s rain­ing.

“Ju­dith Jones would go through a bliz­zard,” Tyler told the As­so­ci­ated Press in 2012. “She’s the most in­domitable per­son.”

Jones was her­self an au­thor and gourmet. She col­lab­o­rated on sev­eral cook­books with her hus­band, Evan Jones, con­trib­uted to nu­mer­ous food mag­a­zines and wrote the mem­oir “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food,” pub­lished in 2007. In 2006, she re­ceived the James Beard Foun­da­tion Life­time Achieve­ment Award, a fit­ting prize for Jones, who pub­lished Beard and was a close friend.

The daugh­ter of an at­tor­ney, Jones was born Ju­dith Bai­ley in 1924 and grew up in Man­hat­tan. She ma­jored in English at Ben­ning­ton Col­lege, worked as an ed­i­to­rial as­sis­tant at Dou­ble­day while still in school, and in her early 20s was a reader for Dou­ble­day in Paris. Among her early achieve­ments was find­ing a mas­ter­piece amid the re­jects: “The Di­ary of Anne Frank.”

“One day my boss said, ‘Oh, will you get rid of th­ese books and write some let­ters.’ He went off to have some lunch with some French pub­lish­ers,” she told AP in 2001. “I curled up with one or two books. I was just cu­ri­ous. I think it was the face on the cover. I looked at that face and I started read­ing that book and I didn’t stop all af­ter­noon.

“I was in tears when my boss came back. I said, ‘This book is go­ing to New York and has got to be pub­lished.’ And he said: ‘What? That book by that kid?!’ ”

Jones joined Knopf in 1957 as a reader of French trans­la­tions. The com­pany, run by founders Al­fred and Blanche Knopf, was ec­cen­tric, old-fash­ioned, where women were warned against at­tend­ing meet­ings be­cause strong lan­guage might be used. She soon be­came an edi­tor; her early clients in­clud­ing John Hersey, El­iz­a­beth Bowen and a promis­ing young au­thor named John Updike. His first book with Knopf was “Rab­bit, Run.”

“Al­fred got on the tele­phone with John and said, ‘You’d bet­ter come right away.’ He said to me, ‘I don’t think you should at­tend the meet­ing; the lan­guage may be a lit­tle raw.’ Of course, I had seen the lan­guage,” Jones said. “We did an ex­pur­gated edi­tion and ev­ery sub­se­quent print­ing put a lit­tle bit back and now it’s all there.”

Jones was among the first to re­al­ize that World War II sol­diers re­turn­ing from Europe might be ready for more so­phis­ti­cated cui­sine. Jones her­self was ad­mit­tedly spoiled by the food in Paris. In the 1950s, she found the bread in New York so taste­less she baked her own at home.

Jones’ most fa­mous dis­cov­ery was Child, a mid­dle-aged Amer­i­can chef in the early ’60s who, like Jones, had re­turned to the states af­ter liv­ing for years in Paris. She and co-au­thors Si­mone Beck and Louisette Bertholle were seek­ing a pub­lisher for a cook­book (later ti­tled by Jones “Mas­ter­ing the Art of French Cook­ing”) that had been re­jected by Houghton Mif­flin. As re­counted in her mem­oir, Jones was soon con­vinced that “this was the book I been look­ing for” and thought Child’s recipe for boeuf bour­guignon wor­thy of the best dishes in Paris.

“I my­self learned to cook from ‘Mas­ter­ing,’ ” she later wrote. “I wanted my food to have the French touch, to taste ‘soignee,’ not just in­dif­fer­ently cooked. But there was no book that re­ally taught me how, that is, not un­til ‘Mas­ter­ing’ came along.”

Jones be­came the coun­try’s gate­way to in­ter­na­tional and na­tional cui­sine. Jones edited Mar­cella Hazan’s “The Clas­sic Ital­ian Cook­book,” which did the same for Ital­ian food as Child’s book did for French. Other chefs Jones worked with in­cluded pi­o­neers in California cui­sine (Alice Waters), Mid­dle Eastern food (Clau­dia Ro­den) and cook­ing from the Amer­i­can South (Edna Lewis).

Jones’ hus­band died in 1996. They had two chil­dren and two stepchil­dren. In re­cent years, she kept a blog, ju­dithjonescooks.com, and wrote the book “The Plea­sures of Cook­ing for One.”

Richard Drew As­so­ci­ated Press

‘IN­DOMITABLE PER­SON’ Ju­dith Jones pub­lished Ju­lia Child and other ground­break­ing cook­book au­thors. She also found a mas­ter­piece amid re­jects: “The Di­ary of Anne Frank.”

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