Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review: The Receptionist by Janet Groth


The year is 1957. A shy E. B. White peers across his desk at The New Yorker and asks the 19-year-old young woman he is interviewing for a job, "What sort of work do you envision doing, Miss Groth?"
"Well, I want eventually to write, of course, but I would be glad to do anything in the publishing field."
"Can you type?"
"No" she admits. "You see, I was afraid that if I became a skilled typist I would wind up in the typing pool."
And thus with that one interview, Groth--beautiful, Midwestern, just out of college--is given the job of Receptionist, where she will remain for twenty-one years, longer than most of the legendary writers whose messages she delivered, dogs she walked, houses she sat, and children she watched. It is those years (1957-1978) that Groth recounts in her fabulous memoir THE RECEPTIONIST.
Despite dreams of penning her own articles for the magazine, Groth stayed put in the same position for twenty years. She ran interference for angry wives checking on adulterous husbands, drank with famous writers (John Berryman, Joseph Mitchell!) at famous watering holes throughout Greenwich Village, and was seduced, two-timed, proposed to, and manipulated by a few of those eccentric inhabitants of the magazine's eighteenth floor.
As the receptionist, Janet Groth was both a veteran insider and a distinct outsider. Her desk sat in the very middle of New York literary life and yet her perspective is anything but your typical New Yorker memoir. A little bit Mad Men, a little bit The Best of Everything, THE RECEPTIONIST is the book for fans of behind-the-scenes insider information on a dazzling time where lunch consisted of three martinis and life was an endless soiree.

I spent a couple of weeks as a journalist so I'm always curious about what it's like in other publications.

In The Receptionist, Janet Groth talks about her experiences in the New Yorker and her life during the time she was there.

I was expecting more of a New Yorker-focus than the book had. As the title suggests, the book is about Janet. So while the New Yorker and its staff are present in some way or another, The Receptionist is more about one woman's coming of age during the '50s and '60s. Since I like the era, I was fascinated with this story. I really wanted more of a New Yorker focus, though.

Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill for the e-ARC. Publication date of The Receptionist is on June 26, 2012.


  1. Janet is a very good storyteller.
  2. You get a feel for New York in the old days.
  3. It's fun to play see how many people and places you recognize.


  1. There aren't as much New Yorker tidbits as I would have liked.

Another blond with daddy problems won that year. Name of Sylvia Plath.

  1. You like New York.
  2. You read the New Yorker.
  3. You like the '50s and '60s.




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