There are a good number of places to read about the beginnings of The New Yorker by people who were there at the beginning. Jane Grant’s Ross, The New Yorker And Me is one (Ms. Grant was married to Harold Ross during the birth of the magazine), and then there’s Corey Ford’s The Time Of Laughter (mentioned here not long ago).
The Vicious Circle by Margaret Case Harriman (published in 1951 by Rinehart)) is another gem. Ms. Harriman’s middle name might look familiar to anyone who’s read Frank Case’s Tales Of A Wayward Inn, published in 1938. Mr. Case (Ms. Harriman’s father) owned the Algonquin Hotel during the time the Roundtable played its part helping spawn The New Yorker.
The fabulous cover is by the late great (non-New Yorker artist) Al Hirschfeld. Back in 2015 Stephen Nadler’s Attempted Bloggery posted illustrations from the book (see them here). I used the cover for my own purposes here on the Spill some time back to head the Posted Notes section:
If you have The Vicious Circle in hand and want to head right into the New Yorker material, go to The Birth Of The New Yorker on page 171. One of my favorite paragraphs concerns this description of the magazine’s founder and first editor, Harold Ross, at the art meeting:
Ross’s searchlight gaze is equally busy on the drawings that go into the magazine. At art meetings he will stare gloomily at a drawing and mutter, “Who’s talking?” This means the picture will go back to the artist to have the speaker’s mouth opened wider. Or he will twist his long body around to peer at the perspective of another cartoon from every angle, and then inquire plaintively, “Where am I supposed to be?” No detail of The New Yorker is too minute to escape his deep attention, and any flaw personally afflicts him, because his standard is perfection. As Russell Maloney once wrote of him, “perfection, in the mind of Harold Ross, is not a goal or an ideal, but something that belongs to him, like his watch or his hat.“
It’s Oscar Day!
Follow Liza Donnelly on Twitter @Lizadonnelly as she draws live on the Red Carpet.
Here’s a photo of her taken yesterday as she checked-out red carpet preparations (and of course drew the preparations) for tonight’s big show.