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Hath There Been Such a Time—I'd Frayn Know That—That I Have Positively Said "Tis So," When It Proved Otherwise?

Filed under: Headline Shooter   Tagged: ,

From Christopher Tindall in the Guardian:

Mystery of fictional Fleet Street editor solved

New Yorker's William Shawn named as model for character in Frayn classic

He was the shadowy, elusive editor who preferred his staff to persecute those he wanted out of the door rather than sack them face to face in the quintessential Fleet Street novel.

But the inspiration behind the "short, rather fat man in a shapeless raincoat and a shapeless trilby hat" in Michael Frayn's 1967 classic Towards the End of the Morning has remained as mysterious as the man whose only form of communication with the world during office hours was pushing typed notes to his secretary through a serving hatch.

Now, almost 40 years after writing what is still revered as one of the funniest portrayals of the dying days of Fleet Street - before Rupert Murdoch's flit to Wapping and the scattering of newspaper offices that followed - the author has revealed who he based his editor on. And his inspiration could hardly have lived further away from the narrow lanes and grimy offices that once bore witness to the activities of many legendary journalists.

"It's based on a real editor, which I can reveal now that he is dead. It was William Shawn, the famous editor of the New Yorker," Frayn says. "He was somewhat more eccentric than the fictitious version. He was a great and wonderful editor, but he was a very, very strange man."

Strange, but infinitely courteous and unpresumptuous, according to his New York Times obituary. Shawn was described by JD Salinger as the "most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors". Continued.

Thanks to Ron Hogan for the swell tip!

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