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Janet Groth Recounts Her Tales From The New Yorker

By Maggie Hellwig in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 24, 2012 6:00PM

On Oct. 27, New York professor and author, Janet Groth, will be reading at Women and Children First Bookstore here in Chicago.

If you read The Devil Wears Prada but found it a tad bit too fluffy, or love to watch Mad Men, but often wonder about how accurate Peggy Olson's ascent to copywriter would have been, then we have a book for you. From 1957 to 1978, Janet Groth was the 18th floor receptionist at The New Yorker. Now 75 and a professor of English at Plattsburgh State and Columbia University, Groth has published her memoir: The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker.

In a June New York Times profile, Groth recounted her vast experiences: her interactions with writers (notably John Berryman and Muriel Spark), a romance with a cartoonist under pseudonym, babysitting, house-sitting, and month-long summer vacations in Europe. What the memoir does not do is coax the reader with a fairy tale. Despite her aspirations of climbing upward onto a reporting or fact-checking position, Groth never does scale beyond her receptionist spot on the 18th floor. While she did go on to grad school at NYU and advanced into an academic career, there is no tone of remorse in her tales. On the contrary, she celebrates her experiences with the magazine.

The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker captures a wonderful view of the literary scene in the mid-1900s, as the leading lady was witness to the comings and goings of some of the era's most famous poets, cartoonists, and writers. She was a bystander and confidant throughout their achievements, turmoil, and--in some cases--their deaths. The event is surely a rare chance to hear these stories, and to gain Janet's perception of New York's famous magazine.

Saturday, October 27, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., 6 p.m., FREE!