It turns out that there is a reason I wasn't sure whether it was James Thurber, in The Years with Ross. or Brendan Gill, in Here at the New Yorker, who had discussed the origins of the "New Jesus" label at the New Yorker magazine. (New Jesus is the role in which Gen. David Petraeus is now being cast.) They both did, in different ways. Thurber described how Harold Ross, the founding editor, had seized on each promising new hotshot as the new Genius who would save them all. By the time Brendan Gill got to the magazine, the term had been converted to the new Jesus. Gill says:



I sensed that, young and old, many a writer had sat in the cubicle before me and had vanished forever into that Sheol where all Ross's failed "Jesuses" might be imagined as dwelling... ("Jesus" was the office corruption of "genius," the epithet that Ross applied to every promising reporter he discovered in the early days of the magazine and upon whom he would immediately thrust the fugitive honor of the managing editorship.)



Here at the Atlantic, of course, we speak of hotshot arrivals as the "New Ralph Waldo Emerson," he being one of our founders 150 years ago...

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.