Pauline kept a notepad at her bedside and scribbled in the middle of the night. At dinner, among friends, she would suddenly dive into her bag and retrieve the pad, attacking it with a mysteriously sharpened little pencil, writing down sentences while laughing at the conversation going on around her. The first drafts of her reviews were composed very rapidly. She was tiny (about five feet), and would gather up her weight and lean on a tilted architect's table, writing in pencil on unlined paper. After a while, she'd get up to walk or dance around the room, only to return to the table and to an activity that was as much physical as intellectual. Fearing that she would end up a secretary, she never learned to type, so after she finished a review her daughter, Gina James, would run it through the typewriter while Pauline took a break, drinking a little watered wine, or talking to a friend on the telephone. Then, staring at the piece in horror and exclaiming at her own ineptitude, she would immediately begin tearing it apart, scissoring and recombining the paragraphs, writing in new observations and jokes in the margins or above the lines, at which point the piece would be typed again. The process continued without interruption at the office where, like Proust after an injection of caffeine, she would assault the galleys, rearranging and rewriting, adding and subtracting still more jokes--on and on, until the pages were reluctantly yielded to the press.
The New Yorker, September 17, 2001