If you can get your hands on a copy of the July 2, 2012 issue of The New Yorker or subscribe to the magazine so you can access the articles behind the magazine's website's paywall, read John McPhee's "Editors & Publisher." It's delightful and fascinating. On the magazine's website, Jon Michaud gives a sense of the article:
John McPhee pays tribute to the New Yorker editors William Shawn and Robert Gottlieb and to the book publisher Roger W. Straus, Jr. In the course of his article, McPhee also discusses the introduction of profanity into the pages of the magazine. This is the latest in a series of articles by McPhee about his career at The New Yorker. Its predecessors have included pieces about fact-checking, the structure of his Profiles, and the perils of trying to predict the future. In 2007’s “My Life List,” an article about the unusual foods he has eaten while on assignment for the magazine, McPhee recalled Mr. Shawn’s “squeamishness in the virtual or actual presence of uncommon food.” He described how this weighed on him when he was writing “Travels in Georgia,” a Profile of the ecologist Carol Ruckdeschel, who collected, and in many cases ate, roadkill:
I was acutely conscious from Day One of the journey and Day One of the writing that my first and perhaps only reader was going to be William Shawn. It shaped the structure, let me tell you. Where to begin? With the weasel we ate the first night out? Are you kidding, I asked myself….
I turned in the manuscript and went for a five-day walk in my own living room. The phone rang.
“Hello, Mr. McPhee. How are you?” He spoke in a very light, very low, and rather lilting voice, not a weak voice, but diffident to a spectacular extent for a man we called the iron mouse.
“Fine, thank you, Mr. Shawn. How are you?”
“Fine, thank you. Is this a good time to be calling?”
“Well, I liked your story … No. I didn’t like your story. I could hardly read it. But that woman is closer to the earth than I am. Her work is significant. I’m pleased to publish it.”
Elsewhere in McPhee's article:
The dissimilarity between Roger [Straus] and Mr. Shawn could not be exaggerated. They were a pea and a prawn in a pod. Shawn grew up in the middle of the merchant class..... [Roger's] mother was a Guggenheim. Shawn was as shy as he was soft-spoken. Roger was a fountain of garrulity. Words came out of him so fast that he tried to economize by saying, at the end of every other sentence, "et cetera, et cetera, and so forth, and so on." If something was marvelous, it was "mawveless." His words wore spats.
A television commercial for The New Yorker calls it possibly the greatest magazine in the world. I think that might be right.
(Image, L to R: Gottleib, Shawn, Straus.)