Friday, August 17, 2012

"The Receptionist," by Janet Groth

The New Yorker. New York. Literary stories and gossip. An independent woman figuring out what she wants in life, having adventures, (mostly) happy in her work, longing for love as well. All of these elements and more make Janet Groth’s memoir, “The Receptionist” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012), a delight to read. Groth, like so many other Midwestern young people, moved to New York after college to seek a bigger and more exciting life. In her case, the move was from Minnesota, and the year was 1957. She became a receptionist at the offices of The New Yorker magazine, and stayed there for 21 years. During those years, she met and became friends (and sometimes lovers) with many well-known writers, editors, artists, and other members of the New York literary/art world. She went to their parties and became their confidant. She knew about their writing blocks, their affairs, their secrets. She herself hoped to be a writer, but it took a while. She was also a great traveler. And she loved literature, and knew it well. After a few years at the New Yorker, she started studying for her PhD in English literature, and only ended her receptionist job when she got a position as a university professor. She finally did write; her main publications have been on the great critic Edmund Wilson. And now she has written this generous memoir, candidly sharing her experiences and feelings during those 21 New Yorker years. And although the literary stories are wonderful, so too is the portrait of a young woman making her own way in a time before it was common for women to be single, self-supporting, independent, and adventurous. Although she had her troubles and doubts, she seems to have had a strength and belief in herself, and a desire for a full life, that carried her through. This book is beautifully written and a great pleasure to read.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter