Monday, March 16, 2009

Strange but Literary True: Joseph Mitchell's Legendary Writer's Block

Strange but Literary True: Joseph Mitchell's Legendary Writer's Block

From 1964 until his death in June of 1996, Joseph Mitchell, the famously brilliant staff writer for The New Yorker, suffered from, arguably, the worst case of writer’s block in literary history, frozen in place, unable to file a significant word all those years. After his passing, Mitchell’s colleague Roger Angell wrote: “Each morning, he stepped out of the elevator with a preoccupied air, nodded wordlessly if you were just coming down the hall, and closed himself in his office. He emerged at lunchtime, always wearing his natty brown fedora (in summer, a straw one) and a tan raincoat; an hour and a half later, he reversed the process, again closing the door. Not much typing was heard from within, and people who called on Joe reported that his desktop was empty of everything but paper and pencils. When the end of the day came, he went home. Sometimes, in the evening elevator, I heard him emit a small sigh, but he never complained, never explained.”

Note: Mitchell’s legendary block, coincidentally or not, occurred right after the publication of his greatest story, “Joe Gould's Secret,” the subject of which was…writer’s block.

Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

Melissa Barrett-Traister said...

Thanks for sharing this bit of information!