Friday, April 02, 2010

Let Me Finish by Roger Angell

I have always thought of Roger Angell as a literary sports writer focused mostly on baseball. With spring training in progress in both Florida and Arizona, I thought that it might be good to read Let Me Finish, Angell's collection of essays that serve as a memoir. To my surprise, there was only a little baseball in the book, but this was no problem. Angell thoughtfully remembers his parents, his friends, life on the road, drinking martinis, and working at The New Yorker, all interesting subjects.

Almost every essay seems to mention The New Yorker. While he was a child and long into his adulthood, his mother was a fiction editor for the esteemed magazine. Her second husband was E.B. White, who wrote and edited for the magazine as well. Angell met almost everyone there from the late 1920s to 2000, either at his parents' parties or working there himself. He recommends other books for deeper insights into the workings of what the staff called "The Comic Weekly," but readers get a pretty good peak in Angell's book.

The New Yorker is not, however, the focus of the book. Instead, Angell recreates a life on the edges and sometimes in the center of the now faded literary world of the early and middle twentieth century. Some of the moments are surprising, including E.B. White's reaction to Angell's daughter putting her own "Some Pig" drawing in the pen of a pig that White planned to slaughter. Angell's father wanted Roger see more of the world, so he sent the boy off on driving trips across the country with a young college student hired to be a sort of older brother. The trust shown acquaintances competes with the betrayal of intimates in the some of the stories.

The result is a charming memoir with many diversionary topics. It is like you sat down with Angell on the back porch and he just started talking.

Angell, Roger. Let Me Finish. Harcourt, 2006. ISBN 0151013500.

No comments: