Genius in Disguise (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
For readers familiar with The New Yorker and with the literature on this influential periodical, Thomas Kunkel’s biography represents the first comprehensive effort to reckon with the role of its founding editor and his legacy. In his acknowledgments, Kunkel carefully acknowledges the work of his predecessors, but he rightly points out their shortcomings. Dale Kramer’s biography, Ross and the “New Yorker” (1951), appeared shortly before Ross died, so that the author had no opportunity to assess the magazine with any perspective, especially since most staff members, including Ross, had refused to cooperate with him. James Thurber’s The Years with Ross (1959) is an extraordinarily valuable and entertaining memoir, but it is as much about Thurber as it is about Ross, which means that many features of Ross’s complicated character are not revealed. Similarly, Jane Grant, Ross’s first wife, provides many insights into the magazine’s establishment in Ross, “The New Yorker,” and Me (1968), but not surprisingly, it does not treat Ross with a biographer’s sense of his whole life. Finally, Brendan Gill’s Here at the New Yorker (1975) is an elegant memoir, but—Kunkel acknowledges—it roughs Ross up rather badly and leaves one wondering how such an irascible and ignorant man ever produced such a sophisticated magazine.
Kunkel is able to deliver exactly what his book title offers: both a full...
(The entire section is 1831 words.)
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