- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers; 1st Carroll & Graf trade paperback ed edition (June 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786703237
- ISBN-13: 978-0786703234
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,048,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the New Yorker Paperback – June, 1996
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Genius in Disguise is more than a portrait of Harold Ross. Ross is one of those precious few magazine editors whose essence so richly permeates their publication that to speak of the early years of the New Yorker without speaking of Ross is as unthinkable as Playboy without Hefner or Ms. without Steinem. Everything we associate with the sophisticated, urban magazine that refused to address itself to the "little old lady in Dubuque"--the eclectic (and sometimes obscure) subject matter, the obsessive attention to factual and grammatical perfection, even the visual style of the cartoons--was shaped by Ross. But an editor is nothing without writers and artists, and so Kunkel presents Ross as a team captain of sorts, seamlessly weaving anecdotes about the players into his rich portrait of Ross's life.
From Publishers Weekly
This marvelous, gossipy biography of Harold Ross (1892-1951), the Colorado silver prospector's son who founded the New Yorker in 1925 and made it into a bastion of literary excellence and East Coast urbanity, is as much a portrait of the man as a revealing chronicle of the magazine. Ross dropped out of high school in Salt Lake City to become an itinerant newspaper reporter. As a WWI private, he went AWOL in France and trekked to Paris, where he edited the U.S. Army's weekly newspaper Stars and Stripes. Kunkel, a former reporter for the Miami Herald and the New York Times, lays to rest the lingering legend of Ross as a perpetually confused hayseed who succeeded by dumb luck. We meet a man of glaring contradictions-profane and puritanical, a conservative presiding over a decidedly liberal magazine-whose keen intellect and searching curiosity nurtured such talents as E.B. White, Janet Flanner, John Cheever, Dorothy Parker, John O'Hara and James Thurber. Kunkel illuminates Ross's three failed marriages, his clashes with his protege and successor William Shawn, and his bitter feud with his partner, yeast magnate Raoul Fleischmann. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
I have read The New Yorker for years and am so glad I finally read ABOUT the magazine, because it is endlessly fascinating. How I wish I had known Harold Ross with his innate intelligence and superior sense of humor! It would appear he could do everything and anything with the exception of marriage. He adored his daughter and celebrated his friends and his magazine up until the very end, which of course came years too soon. He is way up there on my list of people I would want on a desert island! This was such a fun book to read, and I am now heading to the other books that have been written about The New Yorker and everyone involved with it, especially Harold Ross.
In part, Ross was underestimated in his lifetime because he had the unfashionable style in the office of a neurotic worrier. Here's Ogden Nash describing the publisher on the job: "His expression is always that of a man who has just swallowed a bug. Once a day at least he calls you into his office and says, "This magazine is going to hell." He never varies the phrase. Then he says, "We haven't got any organization. I'm licked. We've got too many geniuses around and nobody to take any responsibility. He has smoked five cigarettes while saying that. Then he takes a drink of water, prowls up and down, cries "My God!" loudly and rapidly, and you go out and try to do some work." A captivating book.
Using anecdote, history, and a wide range of sources, Kunkel paints a picture of Ross as a man, which in turn teaches us a lot about the New Yorker and the magazine industry. It is published with The New Yorker Prospectus, an article called "Theory and Practice of Editing New Yorker Articles", and Ross Query Sheets as appendices. Additionally, Kunkel provides a selected bibliography with helpful pointers to further reading.
This book would make a good companion piece to Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker by Ved Mehta. I would recommend it for fans of The New Yorker, people interested in the Algonquin Round Table, or simply for anyone with an appreciation for well-written literary biography.