I’m enjoying Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker a great deal [Thanks Kiala, for lending it to me...initially I was only going to use it as insulation against the cold air in your apartment, but now, I'm actually leafing through the pages!] Gill, who wrote for the magazine for more than 60 years, was not born a poor black child:
My father’s bounty being without stint, he saw no reason that I shouldn’t begin my literary career as if I were already at the peak of it. The result was that without having sold a penny’s worth of my writings, I found myself living like some grand Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist in his sixties, with a lifetime of solid and much-praised work behind him. Not for Anne and me the meanness of a small, sensible apartment in town, the grubby saving up for furniture, kitchenware, and perhaps a battered second-hand car to run errands in. What we had in mind was a charming old place in the depths of the country, on a scale that Washington Irving might not have thought inappropriate for a gentleman writer a hundred years earlier.
The most entertaining alcoholics I’ve known have been rich ones…there’s nothing more socially equalizing, I think, than the idea of the Lord and his dustman drinking at the same pub and ending up in the same ditch on the way home. And Gill, whether an alcoholic, problem drinker, or simply someone whose privilege accommodated the debauchery without the usual money-for-food worries, makes no secret of his fondness for the hard stuff. He’s also brutally unforgiving when it comes to the problems of his fellow writers:
Alcoholics suffer from various consequences of their malnutrition; perhaps the most horrifying consequence is something called cortical atrophy. The cerebral cortex of the brain, giving us among other things our ability to reason, requires to be furnished with the richest possible blood, which the ill-nourished alcoholic is unable to provide; atrophy may then set in, with the result that the alcoholic becomes progressively less intelligent and more childlike. As the years passed, Orr began to bring toys of all sorts into the office, which he would occasionally take the trouble to demonstrate to me, kneeling on the floor and winding them up with evident pleasure. I was under the impression that he had bought the toys for some young niece of nephew, but not at all-his mind was going and he had bought them for himself.
Similarly, Gill has an odd rant about “homosexuals” early in the book, which stuck out like a sore thumb…but one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. It’s a fascinating read is all.