Childless, unmarried, fifty-seven years old, and living with her bedridden mother, [Ellen Butterby] had not drunk deeply from life. As a young woman fresh out of secretarial school, she had answered a help wanted ad, appeared in the cavernous lobby of the New York Globe, and was hired at ninety dollars a week. That was thirty-six years ago, and she had been there ever since. What had she accomplished? Like everyone else, she had given everything to the paper, that bottomless pit. She was aware, on days when she scanned the obits, that she wouldnt merit a single paragraph.
Black and White and Dead All Over by John Darton (Knopf, $24.95; available July 31)