10 April 2007

Describing: William Shawn

Shawn was a small, dignified man with a balding head, large ears, and rosy cheeks who spoke in a high-pitched, wavering voice. He took great care to select the correct words when he spoke, and his speech was filled with painful pauses, especially when he was in front of a group. He was unfailingly polite, courtly, gracious, and formal in manner. He dressed in dark suits and ties, which he neither shed nor loosened during working hours.

Everything about him was unobtrusive. His shoulders slouched some and his chin seemed to tuck toward his chest. He gave the appearance of a man who would prefer to be invisible.

Gigi Mahon, in "The Last Days of The New Yorker" (1988)

William Shawn, who died in 1992, edited The New Yorker from 1952 to 1987.


Stephen Connolly said...

Balding? I think nature had completed its pattern on Mr.Shawn.
Let's hear it for the brave few who don't feel compelled to loosen ties or chuck jackets at the first opportunity. Casual conformity is even more annoying than appropriate formality.

JJB said...

Ha, I have to say -- having last night seen Michael Buble, Sinatra's latest incarnation, appear onstage with his tie loosened -- that I agree with you.

Can we extend the question to men's clothing now? Seems to me that, for guys my age, a bizarre form of casual dressy has taken over; between jeans-and-untucked-button-down and shirt-and-tie, there's nothing.

Stephen Connolly said...

Then there's the curse of office casual which invariably seems to mean khakis and a golf shirt.

I've found Russell Smith of the Globe & Mail to be a valuable sartorial guide.

He's pretty funny on the subject of shorts. He deplores the undignified sight of grown men dressed like 9 year-olds: ball cap; t-shirt; shorts; athletic socks and sneakers.

JJB said...

This is rich ground for comedy. Checking Smith out as soon as I have a sec.

I'm communing with my inner 9-year-old right now -- I'm in shorts and a hoodie, and on my second Pepsi. I've been writing all day, though, which lags far behind bike tag and street hockey on my existential-happiness meter.