Let Me Finish
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Essays from the award-winning New Yorker writer and author of This Old Man: “Witty, worldly, deeply elegiac, and…heartbreaking.”—The Boston Globe
For more than fifty years, as both editor of and contributor for The New Yorker, Roger Angell has honed a reputation as a master of the autobiographic essay—sharp-witted, plucky, and at once nostalgic and unsentimental.
In Let Me Finish, Angell reflects on a remarkable life (while admitting to not really remembering the essentials) and on its influences large and small—from growing up in Prohibition-era New York, to his boyhood romance with baseball, to crossing paths with such twentieth-century luminaries as Babe Ruth, John Updike, Joe DiMaggio, S.J. Perelman, and W. Somerset Maugham. He discusses his dread of Christmas, a revealing recurring dream, and his stepfather, E.B. White. He recalls glorious images from the movies he saw as a child (for which Angell has a nearly encyclopedic memory), the sheer bliss of sailing off the coast of Maine, and the even greater pleasure of heading home to the perfect 6 p.m. vodka martini.
Personal, reflective, funny, delightfully random, and disarming, this is a unique collection of scenes from a life by the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Game, “one of the most entertaining and gracious prose stylists of his…generation” (Time).
“A lovely book and an honest one…about loyalty and love, about work and play, about getting on with the cards that life deals you. It's also a genuinely grown-up book, a rare gem indeed in our pubescent age.”—The Washington Post



Publié par
Date de parution 04 juin 2007
Nombre de lectures 105
EAN13 9780547541372
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Title Page
Movie Kid
The King of the Forest
Twice Christmas
Early Innings
We Are Fam-ilee
Getting There
Dry Martini
Permanent Party
Ancient Mariner
La Vie en Rose
At the Comic Weekly
Here Below
Hard Lines
About the Author
Connect with HMH
Copyright © 2006 by Roger Angell

All rights reserved. Originally published by Harvest Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.


“A Drink with Something in It” is copyright © 1935 by Ogden Nash and is reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Angell, Roger. Let me finish/Roger Angell.—1st ed. p. cm. 1. Angell, Roger. 2. Sportswriters—United States—Biography.3. Authors—United States—Biography. I. Title. GV742.42.A76 A3 2006 070.4'40796092—dc22 2005033067 ISBN 978-0-15-101350-0 ISBN 978-0-15-603218-6 (pbk.)

e ISBN 978-0-547-54137-2 v2.0817
M OST of the true stories in this book were written in the last three years and came as a surprise to me, the author. I’d not planned a memoir, if that’s what this is, and never owned a diary or made notes about the passage of the days. “The King of the Forest,” a piece of mine about my late father, Ernest Angell, was inspired by a letter I’d received from a woman I didn’t know, enclosing a story he’d written for the children’s magazine St. Nicholas, in 1903, when he was thirteen, which tells a family tragedy in a fresh way. My own piece was well received when it ran in The New Yorker but got mixed reviews from others in the family, who shook their heads and told me that I’d pretty much blown my portrait of Father. “He was never like that,” they said. “Not with me.” Our stories about our own lives are a form of fiction, I began to see, and become more insistent as we grow older, even as we try to make them come out in some other way.
There is a bit of melodrama attached to a golf game I once played in Maine, back in 1940—a turn of events so strange that I tucked it away as something I might write one day. But I never could get it right, couldn’t find a form or a tone for it. I even tried to write it as a short story but quickly gave that up as well. I saved one paragraph, a description of the little harborside course and how it looked to us teenagers back then, as a memorandum or preservative, and that found its way intact into the chapter “Getting There,” when it sprang to life in my head a year ago and got written in three days.
These old stories we tell ourselves in the middle of the night require no more than a whisper or a street noise to get them whirring again in a fresh production. William Maxwell, in his autobiographical novel “So Long, See You Tomorrow,” recalls himself as a small boy with an earache, back at home in Lincoln, Illinois, and his father, bending close, blowing cigar smoke into his ear to make him feel better. My story about my father begins with the perfectly remembered sound of his pen on paper while he writes letters in the evening, in our library on Ninety-third Street, in New York, while the ten- or eleven-year-old me awaits the larger swirl of his signature on the last page of the evening, after which he’ll pick up Oliver Twist —“Now, where were we?”—and continue our reading aloud. Life is tough and brimming with loss, and the most we can do about it is to glimpse ourselves clear now and then, and find out what we feel about familiar scenes and recurring faces this time around.
What is startling about memory is its willful persistence and its obsession with detail. “Hold on,” it says. “Don’t lose this.” The other day I unexpectedly found myself seeing the shape of the knobs at the top of the low iron posts that stand along the paths of Central Park—a magnolia bud or perhaps an acorn—and then, long before this, the way such posts looked when they were connected by running strands of heavy wire, which were slightly bent into irregularity and almost loose to the touch. Going down a path in those days you could hook the first joints of your forefinger and second finger over the darkly shining wire and feel it slither along under your touch. In winter, you could grab the wire in your gloved or mittened hand and rush along, friction free, and make it bounce or shiver when you reached the next post and had to let go. But what’s the point of this, I wonder: what’s my mind doing back there? A week or so before my father died, in his eighties, he told me he’d been thinking about a little red shirt that he’d worn when he was four or five years old. “Isn’t that strange?” he said.
My stepfather, E. B. White, is in this book as well, and so are my first wife and some car trips and tennis games and, again and again, my mother, but these chapters don’t add up to biography. Nor do they evoke a better time. To keep things moving, I have interspersed short entertainments about drinking or sailing or the movies—parts of my life as well, but in here mostly for the fun of it. One chapter, “Early Innings,” may be familiar to some readers, but I’ve revived it because it evokes a different era in sports and continues or fills out what I’ve written about my father. Another section, “At the Comic Weekly,” brings up friends and colleagues of mine at The New Yorker, as they once were. I don’t yearn for the past—I doubt that I could have written much of this if I did—and my present-day family and friends and the people I see at work don’t need to be put down on paper for me to notice and enjoy them.
The title of this book, I should add, isn’t about wrapping up a life or a time of life but should only evoke a garrulous gent at the end of the table holding up one hand while he tries to remember the great last line of his monologue.
O NE spring Saturday when I was seven going on eight, my mother brought me with her on an automobile outing with her young lover and future husband, E. B. White. She took our family car, a slope-nosed Franklin sedan, and we must have met Andy by prearrangement at our garage. He did the driving. We left New York and went up into Westchester County for lunch—this was 1928 and it was still mostly country. On the way back, my mother, who had taken the wheel, stripped the gears while shifting, and we ground to a halt, halfway onto a shoulder of the Bronx River Parkway. Disaster. Andy thumbed a ride to go find a tow truck, and my mother, I now realize, was left to make this into an amusing story to tell my father and my older sister at dinner that evening. She almost never drove—thus the screeching and scraping sounds beneath us and the agonized look on her face when she got lost in mid-shift and we broke down. It was also unusual, an adventure, for me to be alone with her and her office friend Mr. White, as she’d described him. I think I wasn’t meant to be there; maybe a Saturday date with a schoolmate had fallen through, and she’d had no recourse but to bring me along. But she never would have taken me off on an outing that would require me to lie about it to my father afterward, so the trip must have been presented to him beforehand as a chance for her to practice her driving, with the reliable Andy White as instructor. I had no idea, of course, that she and I were stranded in a predicament, but I recall sitting beside her on the running board of the ticking, cooling Franklin while we waited, with the pale new shrubs and pastoral grasses of the Parkway around us, and the occasional roadster or touring car (with its occupants swiveling their gaze toward us as they came by) swooshing past. Then a tow truck appeared around the curve behind us, with Andy White standing on the right-hand running board and waving excitedly. Yay, I’m back, we’re rescued! My father would never have done that—found a tow so quickly or waved like a kid when he spotted us.
The story stops here. I don’t remember that night or anything else about our little trip, but in less than two years my parents were divorced and my mother and Andy married and living on East Eighth Street. They soon had their own car, or cars: they kept changing. The Depression had arrived, but they were a successful New Yorker couple—she a fiction editor; he a writer of casuals and poetry and the first-page Comment section—and they loved driving around in an eight-year-old Pierce-Arrow touring car, with a high-bustle trunk, side mirrors, and flapping white roof. After their son was born—my brother Joel—they moved up to a staid seven-passenger Buick sedan. In the mid-thirties, Andy also acquired a secondhand beige-and-black 1928 Plymouth roadster—country wheels, used mostly around their place in Maine. The Buick still mattered to him. Back when it was new, thieves stole it out of a garage on University Place one night and used it in a daring bank stick-up in Yonkers. Andy was upset, but when he read an account of the crime in the newspapers the next day, with a passage that went “and the robbers’

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