In ''The Receptionist,'' Janet Groth chronicles her decades at the country's most famous literary magazine — starting with the day E.B. White hired her back in 1957

By Melissa Maerz
Updated June 22, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Dorothy Parker toted her pet poodle to parties

Parker brought her poodle Cliché to socialize with other writers at the Hotel Adams, and was very picky about the words used to describe the dog’s treats. Once, when Groth offered Cliché biscuit, Parker snapped, ”It’s not a biscuit, for Christ’s sake. It’s a bickie! Who do you think you are, Henry James?”

Truman Capote found ways not to do his job

During his brief tenure at the magazine, Capote avoided the tedious task he’d been hired for — sorting through submissions — by ”destroying the envelopes and dumping their contents behind whichever desk he was using at the time.”

Muriel Spark had a thing about left hands

At parties, the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie author warned her guests not to pour wine with their left hands. ”It was the hand the Borgias used,” she said. ”They’d open the hinged ring they wore on the third finger of that hand, then turn the poison it contained into the vessel they poured… so you must never pour left-handed.”

John Berryman was a serial proposer

The esteemed poet wanted to marry ”every halfway decent-looking woman he met.” Groth recalls that at a meeting in the late 1960s, ”among the seven women in the room, it turned out that he had proposed to three of us.”

Woody Allen usually got lost at the magazine

When Allen came to visit, he got off on the wrong floor nearly every time and needed to be steered back to the right one.