Ana's Reviews > The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker

The Receptionist by Janet Groth
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's review
Aug 04, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: memoirs, non-fiction, library
Read in August, 2012

I came to this book with great expectations...and perhaps that was the biggest problem.
I've loved The New Yorker for years and as soon as i heard about this book, I was itching to read it. I even placed a special interlibrary loan request since my own city didn't yet have a copy of it.
But almost as soon as I started to read it, i knew it wouldn't be great. The writing is clear enough - i sailed through it in a day or two, all while taking care of my six-month-old - but as to what the writing was about...sigh.

I suppose i shouldn't be surprised that half of this book consists of name-dropping since the writer was a receptionist, *the* receptionist, at TNY for almost 20 years. But I thought the book would consist of more than mere mentions of whom she worked with. The few times she actually fleshed out a story with more than - i had lunch with so and so, or i watered so and so's plants - it came out wrong, like she was being cruel to people who had been kind and helpful to her.

The chapter about Muriel Spark particularly irked me. Without going too much into it, Groth managed to give one of those back-handed complimentary jobs on Spark. Now, i don't claim to know anything about Muriel Spark. In fact, I'd barely heard of her before reading this book. But I intensely disliked the way she was portrayed in this book and how Groth took a couple of reactions and turned them into a character study. It just kind of went downhill from there.

The other half of the book was all about the writer's life after TNY and well, honestly, i didn't care by then. Particularly when you have scenes about crying over nectarines. I mean, really? Is this supposed to show the reader that the author's a poet at heart? I'm sorry, but it just came off as so silly. And i usually like silly.

It also comes off as a slight book. One would think there'd be lots more anecdotes considering she worked there for so long.

All in all, I'd say to just go ahead and pick up a biography of any of the writers who worked at The New Yorker instead.
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