The Unexpected Always Happens Essay

The Unexpected Always Happens Essay-87
Clues to the bold and delicate nature of those steps are to be discovered in every line he writes, but the man and his work are so nearly one that, try as we will, we cannot tell the dancer from the dance.-Brendan Gill INTERVIEWER So many critics equate the success of a writer with an unhappy childhood. WHITE As a child, I was frightened but not unhappy. We were a large family (six children) and were a small kingdom unto ourselves. My father was formal, conservative, successful, hardworking, and worried. We lived in a large house in a leafy suburb, where there were backyards and stables and grape arbors. I suffered nothing except the routine terrors of childhood: fear of the dark, fear of the future, fear of the return to school after a summer on a lake in Maine, fear of making an appearance on a platform, fear of the lavatory in the school basement where the slate urinals cascaded, fear that I was unknowing about things I should know about.

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WHITE They were short sketches—what Ross called “casuals.” One, I think, was a piece called “The Swell Steerage,” about the then new college cabin class on transatlantic ships.

I never submitted a manuscript with a covering letter or through an agent.

His speaking voice, like his writing voice, is clear, resonant, and invincibly debonair.

He wanders over the pastures of his Maine farm or, for that matter, along the labyrinthine corridors of offices on West Forty-Third Street with the off-hand grace of a dancer making up a sequence of steps that the eye follows with delight and that defies any but his own notation.

I went abroad one summer and on my return to New York found an accumulation of mail at my apartment.

I took the letters, unopened, and went to a Childs restaurant on Fourteenth Street, where I ordered dinner and began opening my mail.

With Andy, this would pass for a compliment, because in the tyranny of his modesty he would always choose to be a Ford instead of a Rolls, but it would be closer to the truth to describe him as a Rolls Royce mind in a Rolls Royce body that unaccountably keeps bumping to a stop and humming to itself, not without infinite pleasure to others along the way.

What he achieves must cost him a considerable effort and appears to cost him very little.

Magazines that refuse unsolicited manuscripts strike me as lazy, incurious, self-assured, and self-important. There may be some justification for a technical journal to limit its list of contributors to persons who are known to be qualified.

But if I were a publisher, I wouldn’t want to put out a magazine that failed to examine everything that turned up. Ross had no great urge to publish the big names; he was far more interested in turning up new and yet undiscovered talent, the Helen Hokinsons and the James Thurbers.


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