February 1, 2000
Random House Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0375503978
ISBN - 13: 9780375503979
Read from the Book
Researching a biography is often compared to detective work, and certainly much sleuthing must transpire before the first word ever slips from the writer's fingertips. Even so, I find this analogy altogether too grim, not only for its criminal overtones but for its suggestion of a kind of purposeful slogging on the part of the pursuer. For most biographers there is more sheer joy in the exercise than that; it is less a life-or-death pursuit than an open-ended game of hide-and-seek. Some writers find their quarry, others never do. The serendipity is part of the fun.As for me, I found Harold Wallace Ross in Room 328 of the New York Public Library. True, he had been dead for more than forty years. But Ross, founding editor and guiding spirit of The New Yorker magazine, is loudly, reprovingly alive in the tens of thousands of letters packed away in a hundred or more archival containers. Before I ever got into the magazine’s archives, now kept at the library, I had formed a strong impression of Ross, one gleaned from dozens of interviews with those who knew him, from the memoirs of others, and from the sundry correspondence of his that I had unearthed in other collections. But nothing prepared me for the sheer personality that bounded from these musty gray boxes like a freed genie. In less than an hour's eavesdropping I encountered my man scolding Henry Luce, lecturing Orson Welles, baiting J. Edgar Hoover, inviting Noel Coward and Ginger Rogers to the circus, wheedling Ernest Hem
From the Publisher
These exhilarating letters--selected and introduced by Thomas Kunkel, who wrote Genius in Disguise, the distinguished Ross biography--tell the dramatic story of the birth of The New Yorker and its precarious early days and years. Ross worries about everything from keeping track of office typewriters to the magazine's role in wartime to the exact questions to be asked for a "Talk of the Town" piece on the song "Happy Birthday." We find Ross, in Kunkel's words, "scolding Henry Luce, lecturing Orson Welles, baiting J. Edgar Hoover, inviting Noel Coward and Ginger Rogers to the circus, wheedling Ernest Hemingway-- offering to sell Harpo Marx a used car and James Cagney a used tractor, and explaining to restaurateur-to-the-stars Dave Chasen, step by step, how to smoke a turkey." These letters from a supreme editor tell in his own words the story of the fierce, lively man who launched the world's most prestigious magazine.
About the Author
Thomas Kunkel is the author of a biography of Ross, Genius in Disguise, and Enormous Prayers. He works at the University of Maryland College of Journalism and lives in Burtonsville, Maryland.
From Our Editors
When he first began as the editor of The New Yorker, Harold Ross could never have foreseen that it would become the standard by which all other magazines are measured, or that it would become the world`s most distinguished periodical. Indeed, he once wrote "All I know about getting out a magazine is to print what you think is good ... and let nature take its course," but it was Ross` own keen wit that set the pace for what was to follow. Letters from the Editor is his collected correspondence, bringing together missives to everyone from Truman Capote to Ernest Hemingway, and from Orson Welles to J. Edgar Hoover. All in all, they create a composite sketch of an uncredited genius - and of a man whose vision was to endure for decades after his death.