Brendan was the most professional and the most cheerful writer on earth; it was almost unbearable. Back in the sixties and early seventies, my twentieth-floor office at the old New Yorker quarters was two doors away from his, and no matter how early I turned up in the morning his light would be on and, most days, his typewriter going at full rattle. In no time, it always seemed, he would emerge, his task done, and scud past my corner with his beaky, friendly face alight, his hands full of galley proofs or fresh copy, and a couple of outbound letters clenched in his teeth while he struggled into his coat and somehow waved a greeting at the same time: off to meet someone or arrange something or simply attend to the city. After lunch, he was back, often in company and conversation with a visiting friend or interviewee--I can remember Brendan Behan coming by one day, and Max Ernst or Robert Graves on others, not to mention women of startling interest (who was that?)--and their talk and laughter from behind this door sounded livelier and more intense than anything going on with me just then. Other writers and editors took this same mild umbrage--sometimes we would exchange notes about our own low-level, underlit days compared to Brendan's dazzle--but it was hard to sustain, because he included everyone within his boundless and affable attention. "Yes!" he would cry in response to anything you offered, and you would feel the warming searchlight of his questions and ideas and anecdotes and afterthoughts fall upon you, and find yourself--for a minute, anyway--as cheerful and likable and riveting as he was, and almost as swift.
The New Yorker, January 12, 1998