On the Shelf
Item: Results of the Yearbook poll show that 80.4 percent of the College community reads the CRIMSON regularly, 7.5 percent reads the Advocate, and 12.1 percent reads the Lampoon. April 7, 1953
The Blot sat in the Great Hall, silently mulling over the galley proofs of the April Lampoon. In the corner propped up behind him was a large cardboard thermometer, colored up to 12.1 percent. Around it were slogans: "Let's hit fifteen in '53!" "Upward with Updike!" "Mother Advocate gains readers--why can't we!"
The Blot finished the proofs and drew a long sigh. We'd better get some readers before the Chief graduates, he thought, or we'll really be in trouble. Look at this issue--six of ten cartoons, five out of seven stories, three poems. Of course, Edwards helped him on a couple of stories but you'd never know it from the style. And what is there beside his stuff? The Wentworth piece, sure, probably the best he's done so far. Good sketch of an ill-clothed, ill-fed French family which waits months for a CARE package. When it comes, it's all American magazines. And Wes Johnson's idea about a holdup at the Cambridge Trust curb teller makes a good cartoon. But what else? Robinson keeps drawing those goddam spiderweb cartoons utterly devoid of humor. And Edward's trifle about Kurds and gypsies succeeds only in being esoteric. That's it--except for the Boss's stuff.
The Blot's eyes wandered to the wall, where John Updike's picture had already been hung between Benchley and Gluyas Williams. Some of his stuff fell flat this issue, he thought. You really can't blame the Chief--he's so overworked. But the Chinese birthday party cartoon ("Happy Birthday, Tu Yu") was great. The lead poem on Spring was smooth and sensitive. And the Schism in the Church story--about the Pennsylvania Germans (Blot's eyes filled with tears as he thought of how well the Chief knew and loved them.) The way he wriggles the poor minister out of the middle of the nasty dispute between the two church factions. The way he handles the dialogue, and uses it to draw out their parochialism. Real New Yorker stuff.
Blot looked back at the galleys of the story, wondered if Neihbur was the right spelling, didn't know, decided to leave it. As he thumbed through the galleys, he noticed N. Pettit's name upside-down on the masthead, thought it would be a good gag to leave it.
Hell of a situation, thought the Blot. One man writes the whole magazine. Next year, he'll be a senior. And readership is low. His eyes rose up the thermometer, as if in silent hope. They reached eighty percent. "Damn CRIMSON," he muttered.
Then came the idea, hitting Blot like a thunderbolt. "You've got to write about what interests them," he said aloud. "No one cares about Kurds and gypsies, but almost everybody reads the CRIMSON. We'll write about them!"
In a minute, Blot had whipped off an editorial about the CRIMSON. Then a monstrosity cartoon, a "What the next President of the CRIMSON will look like." He was listing other topics for future issues when he heard the Jester coming down the stairs.
"Jester," he glowed, "I've got the sure cure for circulation."
"Never mind that now," puffed the Jester, "we've got bigger problems. Our Ibis is gone again."
Blot yelled something unprintable, and leaving the galley proofs on the table, ran upstairs to stop the movies and marshall the editors for the search.