Ben Yagoda's New Yorker History

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Ben Yagoda's New Yorker History

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syyskuu 10, 2011, 10:52 am

I thought it might be fun, since I'm reading Ben Yagoda's book, About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made, to post a few quotes from the book here--just some of the stuff that strikes me as interesting or whatever that might be fun to share.

Here's something for you, Sib, since I know you like poetry. Louise Bogan (wife of NYer staff member Raymond Holden) wrote a semiannual review of poetry books for the magazine, running from March 1931 to 1969. Yagoda says this: "She wrote essays for the New Yorker in which she 'confronted her demons {one of them--alcoholism} and depression. They had overtones of Dorothy Parker but were more introspective, tough-minded, and ahead of their time." With a subscription to the NYer, you also have internet access to the entire archives of back issues. I'm thinking some of those essays would be very interesting.

syyskuu 19, 2011, 11:43 am

I found a wonderful woman this morning, Eleanor Gould Packard, who edited the magazine for 54 years.

From her obituary:

Her work was not easily encompassed in a job title, and the magazine never saw a need to give her one. She was not a fact-checker, though she did find errors. She was not a story editor, copy editor or proofreader. She did not enter the process until an article had been examined by lawyers and editors and was in galley proof, close to the last minute. She worked her way down both margins, penciling corrections and suggestions in a legible hand, always providing her rationale.

In 1952, the Miss Gould (as she was always called) moved to Central Park West and 101st Street with her husband and daughter, where she lived for as long as she worked. She took a bus to the office on West 43rd Street, carrying a small lunch in an old shoe bag made of fabric resembling an ace bandage. For amusement, Miss Gould, who belonged at one time to Mensa, an organization of the supersmart, would factor the four-digit bus identification numbers.

After she had a stroke and quit the magazine, she told one interviewer, "I'll have to stage a faked death and come back to correct my obit."

One editor said that getting a galley proof edited by Miss Gould was "like having Newton help you with your physics homework."

Her dates: 1917-2005.

syyskuu 19, 2011, 11:52 am

The New Yorker reached into many of our lives in many ways. I remember a couple myself.

There was a New Yorker scandal at the hoity-toity boarding school I went to in the fifties. For our finals in English Literature, we seniors were given five or ten of the Newsbreaks, along with sarcastic comment. We were asked to explain the humor of the piece, and the reason for the comment. I can remember hearing sighs and boos in the examination room because we knew we were victims of our English teachers' obsession with a magazine which, as of yet, we didn't care for (except the cartoons, and perhaps the stories by Salinger, which we felt were written for us).

Like most of the writers of my generation, I knew the only place worth being published in America was at 25 West 43th Street. Over the years, I probably collected fifty rejection slips from them. When one came in the mail, there would be no anger, but, rather, an assumption that I had not yet reached that place, the place where I was good enough to appear in the same pages as O'Hara, Shaw, Cheever, A. J. Liebling or Vladimir Nabokov. In other words, we writers would criticise our own art, never the standards of the New Yorker.

I finally gave up, but then the gods gave me a piece of the magazine. It happened in 1968. I was running a miniscule but noisy FM station in Seattle at the time, and I routinely sent our program guide to Michael Arlen who did the radio-TV column for the New Yorker. At one point we got busted by the Federal Communications Commission for running a hot speech by James Bevel, one of Martin Luther King's friends and fellow civil rights organizer. The FCC stated that someone had complained to them that the speech was obscene. They sent an agent from the FBI over to KRAB to pick up the tape.

I was miffed, for the speech was scarcely obscene (by today's standards it was tame). It was, on top of it all, a hell of a good piece of rhetoric. I wrote a fairly angry article about freedom of speech and such for our program guide. Michael Arlen read it and wrote about our plight in an issue of the magazine. The article was called "Watchman of the Night," after Isaiah --- "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman what of the night?/The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night." I never got the reference, but I loved the artistic presentation of our problem.

One of the newspapers in Seattle printed the entire article, we were praised for our courage, and most of all --- we were important. The world was good and powerful and just: they paid attention to the doings of the little folk. Best of all, I was now free of the burden of sending off stories and poems to the magazine to get rejected, because I had reached the pinnacle. They had let me in through the back door.


tammikuu 31, 2012, 4:09 pm

That's a great story about Michael Arlen. Really enjoyed reading about it. Do you remember when you started reading the magazine?I wrote to the magazine last year and asked them if they knew who was their longest-standing subscriber. They told me they didn't carry that kind of information although anecdotally they knew there were readers who go back many decades. I used to have a teacher who started subscribing in the fifties and she has been a continuous subscriber and reader since then.

helmikuu 6, 2012, 2:19 pm

That is indeed a great story about Arlen.