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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.
I used to put my manuscript in the mail, along with a stamped envelope for the rejection.
This was a matter of high principle with me: I believed in the doctrine of immaculate rejection.
If it also happens that you attend Cornell, whose first president was Andrew D. Years ago, in a Christmas doggerel, Edmund Wilson saluted them for possessing “” and it was always wonderful to behold the intuitive seesaw adjustments by which one of them got well in time for the other to get sick.
The Whites have shared everything, from professional association on the same magazine to preoccupation with a joint ill health that many of their friends have been inclined to regard as imaginary.
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.
It would never occur to me to go beyond calling her Katharine, and I have not found it surprising when her son, Roger Angell, an editor of , refers to her within the office precincts as “Mrs.
White.” (Roger Angell is the son of her marriage to a distinguished New York attorney, Ernest Angell; she and Andy have a son, Joe, who is a naval architect and whose boatyard is a thriving enterprise in the Whites’ hometown of Brooklin, Maine.) At the risk of reducing a man’s life to a sort of Merck’s Manual, I may mention that Andy White’s personal physician, Dana Atchley- giving characteristically short shrift to a psychosomatic view of his old friend- has described him as having a Rolls Royce mind in a Model T body.