I had a great deal of writing, but I lacked confidence in my ability to put it to good use.
I went abroad one summer and on my return to New York found an accumulation of mail at my apartment.
INTERVIEWER At what age did you know you were going to follow a literary profession? WHITE I never knew for sure that I would follow a literary profession.
I was twenty-seven or twenty-eight before anything happened that gave me any assurance that I could make a go of writing.
I took the letters, unopened, and went to a Childs restaurant on Fourteenth Street, where I ordered dinner and began opening my mail.
From one envelope, two or three checks dropped out, from . The Whites have shared everything, from professional association on the same magazine to preoccupation with a joint ill health that many of their friends have been inclined to regard as imaginary. On the occasions when they have been obliged to be apart, Andy’s conversation is so likely to center on Katharine that she becomes all the more present for being absent.-Brendan Gill INTERVIEWER So many critics equate the success of a writer with an unhappy childhood. WHITE As a child, I was frightened but not unhappy. We were a large family (six children) and were a small kingdom unto ourselves. My father was formal, conservative, successful, hardworking, and worried. We lived in a large house in a leafy suburb, where there were backyards and stables and grape arbors. I suffered nothing except the routine terrors of childhood: fear of the dark, fear of the future, fear of the return to school after a summer on a lake in Maine, fear of making an appearance on a platform, fear of the lavatory in the school basement where the slate urinals cascaded, fear that I was unknowing about things I should know about.Can you say something of your own childhood in Mount Vernon? I was, as a child, allergic to pollens and dusts, and still am. It may be, as some critics suggest, that it helps to have an unhappy childhood. Perhaps it helps to have been scared or allergic to pollens—I don’t know.I suppose they totaled a little under a hundred dollars, but it looked like a fortune to me.I can still remember the feeling that “this was it”—I was a pro at last. INTERVIEWER What were those first pieces accepted by ?I never submitted a manuscript with a covering letter or through an agent.I used to put my manuscript in the mail, along with a stamped envelope for the rejection.Did you send them in with a covering letter, or through an agent?WHITE They were short sketches—what Ross called “casuals.” One, I think, was a piece called “The Swell Steerage,” about the then new college cabin class on transatlantic ships.