Want to know what it’s like working at The New Yorker back in the day? Janet Groth, a former receptionist at the magazine, worked there for 21 years and outlined the comings and goings, triumphs and tribulations of the 18th floor.
In her new book, The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker, Groth (now a college professor), dishes the inside scoop during her tenure from 1957 until 1978.
Groth told The New York Times her receptionist’s chair near the elevator provided her with “a bird’s-eye view of everything and a hot plate, which I brought.”
Although we haven’t read it yet, as pointed out in the piece, perhaps her memoir may be compared to Mad Men given the time and scope of the business. Overall, she told the newspaper why she didn’t advance beyond her role despite her many years of service.
She told the Times, “Women had had no assertiveness training — Oprah had yet to appear. I didn’t have a good grip on where I was going or who I was.”
That said, women such as Lillian Ross and Pauline Kael did in fact succeed as writers at the publication while Groth worked there. Her explanation? “I was less able to envision myself storming the citadel than people who were more confident.”
She added, “It wasn’t that easy to work your way up. You couldn’t see where the ladder was or who was holding it, let alone how to climb up it.”
Ladder climbing aside, she was able to field inquiries from J.D. Salinger , gave Woody Allen directions, and had her job interview with E.B. White. Outlining perks of the jobs which perched her at the front of the literary scene, she was able to enjoy summer vacations to Europe with pay (merely $80 each week.) She described, “The New Yorker believed in long summer vacations for their receptionists.”