THE RECEPTIONIST

AN EDUCATION AT THE NEW YORKER

For readers who can’t get enough New Yorker lore, an amiable view from the inside.

A nostalgic, wistful look at life inside one of America’s most storied magazines, and the personal and professional limbo of the woman who answered the phone.

Well before she became a teacher and biographer, Groth (English Emeritus/SUNY-Plattsburgh; Edmund Wilson: A Critic for Our Time, 1989, etc.) spent 21 years (1957–1978) behind the front desk at the New Yorker, taking messages, calming suspicious wives, babysitting and refusing John Berryman’s marriage proposals. The starry-eyed daughter of an alcoholic Iowa grocer, she arrived in Manhattan both educated and adorable, hoping for the byline that would buy her freedom. Instead, she had a series of disastrous romances and mostly became friends with the famous. Her steady lunch date was Joseph Mitchell, soon to become crippled by writer’s block; her thoughts on why he failed to deliver a great novel are intelligent and fascinating. Another friend was Muriel Spark, whom she recalls as both elegant and generous, if a questionable mother. Legendary editor William Shawn leaves her cold; she describes him as humorless and “sadomasochistic” toward writers. Despite her tendency toward clichés (“fame and fortune”; “it’s not who you are but who you know”), this bookish girl from flyover country who became a Mad Men–era hottie, and who found she had to leave this cozy nest in order to save herself, is very much an interesting character in her own right.

For readers who can’t get enough New Yorker lore, an amiable view from the inside.

Pub Date: June 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61620-131-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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