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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Receptionist: An Education at the New Yorker

I was attracted to this book by the tell-all promises that came with the reviews and by the go-girl magazine pluck of the great read Good Girls Revolt. I was hoping Janet Groth's The Receptionist: An Education at the New Yorker would be along the same lines.

With the audacity and pluck that only a recent college graduate could have, Janet lands herself a receptionist position at The New Yorker in the 1950's. For 21 years she has the best seat in the house; she witnesses greatness and failure, love and affairs, and celebrities out the wazoo.

This memoir had some interesting moments. When Groth was speaking about instances that occurred at the magazine, I was all in and interested. Unfortunately, most of this memoir is about Groth's life in New York City as a whole and less about the great stories of the history of the magazine. It is very focused on Groth's love life over the course of her life in New York, little of which occurred inside the magazine save for one love affair that went horribly wrong. It is not a bad read, but it is also nothing that I haven't read before.

But, as I said, when Groth writes about the goings-on at the magazine the book really peaks interest. Stories about the men (and yes, the writers were almost exclusively men at this point in time) and their exploits were fascinating; who had affairs, who was boozed out most of the time, and who got sacked when they couldn't hack it any longer. It was particularly interesting listening to Groth talk about her momentary promotion of which she was slickly pushed out when she went on vacation. That is the stuff of which a memoir about The New Yorker is made.

You can get the book here (Kindle on left, hard copy on right):

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