What would John Bennet do? He’d keep it brief.(Nick Paumgarten, “John Bennet, Enemy of the ‘Blah Blah Blah’,” The New Yorker, 7-14-22)
That’s how Nick Paumgarten starts his tribute to John Bennet, a New Yorker editor, recently deceased, who was venerated by his writers.
John Bennet came from a “hardscrabble childhood” in East Texas. He got his start at The New Yorker in 1975, as a collator, someone who copies out each reader’s edits onto a master proof.
“I got to see everybody’s style, and I got to steal everybody’s moves,” he recently told a friend.
His obit isn’t the best way to meet a paladin of style, but better so than never. I will remember John Bennet immediately for “what became known as the Impossible Sentence, which he composed, with Nancy Franklin, in the eighties, made up of words (or usages) that were effectively banned from the magazine”:
“Intrigued by the massive smarts of the balding, feisty, prestigious workaholic, Tom Wolfe promptly spat on the quality photo located above the urinal.”
Brevity is the soul of it.
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