Jane Friedman on What She’s Up To: ‘Everything’

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Jerry Manuel, head firmly attached to neck. Photo: Getty Images

She's hardly been in a Palin-like bubble since being fired from HarperCollins in June, but ex-CEO Jane Friedman had still begged off any on-the-record interviews these past four months. Until last night, when she submitted to the questioning of close friend and Knopf associate publisher Victoria Wilson at the New School. Wilson announced early on that there'd be "no trick questions," just a litany of past successes and memories for the benefit of the student-filled crowd.

Friedman reminisced about her role in inventing the author publicity tour in 1970 ("If you remember, Julia Child was the French chef," she clarified for the students), and watching 1,000 women line up in front of a department store to watch the telegenic cook whip up simple mayonnaise. She told one anecdote about how the fire marshals busted into a marketing meeting because it was so overcrowded with eager staffers. "I have not really been talking too much to the HarperCollins employees," Friedman added. "I feel like it's good for them to be doing this all on their own."

"No one has had a better life than I have had in publishing," said Friedman, who had nice things to say about both Random House's new CEO and "the 1,000-pound gorilla," Amazon. Yet even Wilson couldn't resist grilling Friedman — lightly — on what she's got cooking now. "Do you want to be a CEO again, a free agent, a consultant, or own your own business?" Friedman glanced at a flack in the back of the room, who shook his head, and she waved the universal "ixnay" sign. But then she couldn't resist. "I want to answer that. All of them." Wilson concluded by reminding Friedman (to her blushing embarrassment) that she'd once told her she'd like to be on the cover of Time magazine as Woman of the Year. She reassured Friedman she might still have a shot.