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Best of the Book Nook: Late Bloomers, by Brendan Gill

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Brendan Gill began working for The New Yorker magazine straight out of college in 1936. In 1996 he celebrated his 60th year with the publication and he published his final book, "Late Bloomers." In that book Gill celebrated individuals who had blossomed after reaching middle age or even later.

He came out to Yellow Springs to see me. I gave him a detailed introduction and later on he joked that what I had said about him sounded like I had been reading from his obituary. He was 81 years old at the time and he seemed rather relaxed about the prospect of his own demise. He said that he would be perfectly content to die right at that moment. I begged him to wait until our interview was completed, at least.

Brendan Gill seemed to know everybody. He was famous for writing gossipy unattributed pieces for the Talk of the Town section in the magazine and he did not disappoint me in that regard; oh how he could gossip and how delighted he was to be doing so! During this interview he talked about his famous feud with James Thurber. Gill had a wonderful anecdote about how one of the famous editors he had worked with at the magazine was a confirmed racist and how Thurber, a notorious prankster, would tweak that editor's biases by calling him up on the phone and pretending to be an elderly woman speaking in dialect.

Gill was a raconteur of the highest order and it was a rare pleasure to converse with him. 18 months later Brendan Gill was dead. It still seems hard to fathom that a man with such vitality and vigor could ever be silenced.

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.