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The Receptionist: An Education at the New Yorkerby Janet Groth
Synopses & Reviews
Thanks to a successful interview with a painfully shy E. B. White, a beautiful nineteen-year-old hazel-eyed Midwesterner landed a job as receptionist at The New Yorker. There she stayed for two decades, becoming the general office factotum—watching and registering the comings and goings, marriages and divorces, scandalous affairs, failures, triumphs, and tragedies of the eccentric inhabitants of the eighteenth floor. In addition to taking their messages, Groth watered their plants, walked their dogs, boarded their cats, and sat their children (and houses) when they traveled. And although she dreamed of becoming a writer herself, she never advanced at the magazine.
This memoir of a particular time and place is as much about why that was so as it is about Groth’s fascinating relationships with poet John Berryman (who proposed marriage), essayist Joseph Mitchell (who took her to lunch every Friday), and playwright Muriel Spark (who invited her to Christmas dinner in Tuscany), as well as E. J. Kahn, Calvin Trillin, Renata Adler, Peter Devries, Charles Addams, and many other New Yorker contributors and bohemian denizens of Greenwich Village in its heyday.
During those single-in-the-city years, Groth tried on many identities—Nice Girl, Sex Pot, Dumb Blonde, World Traveler, Doctoral Candidate—but eventually she would have to leave The New Yorker to find her true self.
"Revelatory dispatches from 21 years as a receptionist at the New Yorker — 1957 to 1978 — expose more about Groth's (Edmund Wilson) own sense of writerly inadequacy in that pre-feminist era than about the famous writers she worked for. Fresh out of the University of Minnesota, armed with a writing prize and an entrÃ©e to interview with the New Yorker's legendary E.B. White, Groth secured a receptionist job on the 18th floor of the midtown Manhattan building — the 'writers' floor' — with every expectation of moving on to fact-checking or reporting within a year or two. While answering their phones and messages, watering their plants, babysitting their kids, and housesitting, Groth secured mentoring relationships (and regular lunches) with numerous writers like John Berryman, Joseph Mitchell, and Muriel Spark, whom she delineates in touching tributes, yet the simmering subtext to this deeply reflective, rueful memoir is the question why she did not advance in two decades at the magazine. After losing her virginity to a young dissolute contract artist she calls Evan Simm, who ended up affianced to someone else, Groth plunged into a period of acting out as the promiscuous party girl ('Yep, a dumb blond,' she calls herself) before travel, psychotherapy, and graduate school directed her to a path of her own making. As the magazine weathered tumultuous events of the 1960s and '70, Groth chronicles the many dazzling personalities whose lives touched, and moved, hers. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A wry, witty, often tender memoir by a former New Yorker and Random House editor who has great tales of a life in words.
A wry, witty, often tender memoir by a former New Yorker editor, magazine writer, and book publisher who offers great tales of a life in words Daniel Menaker started as a fact checker at The New Yorker in 1969. With luck, hard work, and the support of William Maxwell, he was eventually promoted to editor. Never beloved by William Shawn, he was advised early on to find a position elsewhere; he stayed for another twenty-four years. Now Menaker brings us a new view of life in that wonderfully strange place and beyond, throughout his more than forty years working to celebrate language and good writing. He tells us his own story, too—with irrepressible style and honesty—of a life spent persevering through often difficult, nearly always difficult-to-read, situations. Haunted by a self-doubt sharpened by his role in his brothers unexpected death, he offers wry, hilarious observations on publishing, child-rearing, parent-losing, and the writing life. But as time goes by, we witness something far beyond the incidental: a moving, thoughtful meditation on years well lived, well read, and well spent. Full of mistakes, perhaps. But full of effort, full of accomplishment, full of life.
In 1957, when a young Midwestern woman landed a job at The New Yorker, she didn't expect to stay long at the reception desk. But stay she did, and for twenty-one years she had the best seat in the house. In addition to taking messages, she ran interference for jealous wives checking on adulterous husbands, drank with famous writers at famous watering holes throughout bohemian Greenwich Village, and was seduced, two-timed, and proposed to by a few of the magazine's eccentric luminaries. This memoir of a particular time and place is an enchanting tale of a woman in search of herself.
About the Author
Janet Groth, Emeritus Professor of English at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, has also taught at Vassar, Brooklyn College, the University of Cincinnati, and Columbia. She was a Fulbright lecturer in Norway and a visiting fellow at Yale and is the author of Edmund Wilson: A Critic for Our Time (for which she won the NEMLA Book Award) and coauthor of Critic in Love: A Romantic Biography of Edmund Wilson. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
No Television; Vitalis 1
Regional Qualities; The New Sir 31
The Drudge; Alex Trebeks Constitution 63
Isnt This Scientific?; The Sugar 147
The Great Temporariness; Crème Brûlée 191
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