Genius in disguise: Harold Ross of the New Yorker
"Magazines are about eighty-five percent luck", Harold Ross told George Jean Nathan. "I was about the luckiest son of a bitch alive when I started The New Yorker". Ross was certainly lucky back in 1925, but he was smart, too. When such unknown young talents as E. B. White, James Thurber, Janet Flanner, Helen Hokinson, Wolcott Gibbs, and Peter Arno turned up on his doorstep, he knew exactly what to do with them. So was born what many people consider the most urbane and groundbreaking magazine in history. Thomas Kunkel has written the first comprehensive biography of Harold W. Ross, the high school dropout and Colorado miner's son who somehow blew out of the West to become a seminal figure in American journalism and letters, and a man whose story is as improbable as it is entertaining. The author follows Ross from his trainhopping start as an itinerant newspaperman to his editorship of The Stars and Stripes, to his role in the formation of the Algonquin Round Table, to his audacious and near-disastrous launch of The New Yorker. For nearly twenty-seven years Ross ran the magazine with a firm hand and a sensitivity that his gruff exterior belied. Whether sharpshooting a short story, lecturing Henry Luce, dining with the Duke of Windsor, or playing stud poker with one-armed railroad men in Reno, Nevada, he revealed an irrepressible spirit, an insatiable curiosity, and a bristling intellect - qualities that, not coincidentally, characterized The New Yorker. Ross demanded excellence, venerated talent, and shepherded his contributors with a curmudgeonly pose and an infectious sense of humor. "l am not God", he once informed E. B. White. "The realization of this came slowly and hard some yearsago, but l have swallowed it by now. l am merely an angel in the Lord's vineyard". Through the years many have wondered how this unlikely character could ever have conceived such a sophisticated enterprise as The New Yorker. But after reading this rich, enchanting, impeccably researched biography, readers will understand why no one but Ross could have done it.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
This biography of Harold Ross (1892-1951), founder/editor of The New Yorker covers both his personal life and his interaction with the great writers of the 1920s, Ď30s and beyond. That includes E.B. White, James Thurber and Joseph Mitchell, writers Iíve admired for years. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that dealt with two of the publications Ross strongly influenced: Stars and Stripes (where Ross relished being a lowly private among a staff of higher-ranking officers during World War I) and The New Yorker (where he continued a love-hate relationship with his moneyed partner, Raoul Fleischmann of the yeast dynasty). The author also demonstrated why magazines were so important in the 1920s and 1930s and what made The New Yorker different from other publications which started during those years, including Time and Life. From the beginning, Ross had a clear vision of what he wanted The New Yorker to be: urbane and sophisticated. This was amazing from a man who was relatively new to the city and had a decidedly middle-class background. Nevertheless, his man talent was an eye for talent. He was willing to hire eccentrics and oddballs and nurture their careers. For this, he gained their undying loyalty. Iíve read many biographies of editors and publishers and Ross was different. He didnít turn out to be a jerk (although he had his idiosyncrasies) and was surprisingly kind to most, but not all, the men and women on his staff. I thought the author did a great job weaving Rossís personal and professional lives into an interesting tale, and wrote it well. And it prompted a vow from me to seek out and read more from The New Yorker writers.
Review: Genius in Disguise:: Harold Ross of The New YorkerUser Review - Goodreads
Very entertaining biography about Harold Ross who started the New Yorker magazine. Harold Ross was a talented, but very unlikely character to have started such a sophisticated magazine. Well written and researched and also fun to read about New York City during that time.