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How not to get a job at the New Yorker, brilliantly

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  December 11, 2012 01:17 PM

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You may have wondered, are great writers great even when they're writing cover letters?

To judge from the case of Eudora Welty, they are. In 1933 the 23-year-old Mississippi native and recent NYC transplant penned a note to The New Yorker seeking employment. It was recently posted on Letters of Note, reprinted from the book "What There Is to Say We Have Already Said," a collection of Welty’s correspondence with the writer William Maxwell.

Her opening paragraph has to rank among the best in the history of cover letters, and it only gets better from there.

March 15, 1933

Gentlemen,

I suppose you'd be more interested in even a sleight-o'-hand trick than you'd be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can't have the thing you want most.

And, later:

As to what I might do for you — I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse's pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works — quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.

You may also have wondered whether writing a good cover letter actually makes a difference. To judge again from the case of Welty, who did not get a job, it would seem that it doesn't.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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