“If I reach into my pocket to pay for something and pull out a handful of change that turns out to be mostly pennies, I get discouraged about life.”
Thus Andy Rooney, who has made more than a few pennies over the years as a TV commentator, most famously for his sometimes curmudgeonly, sometimes cloyingly cute monologues on 60 Minutes. The nonagenarian is a veritable byword for folksiness. As this gathering of his work over the years shows, his homespun pronouncements can veer from cracker barrel to downright eccentric, sometimes in the same sentence (“It sounds funny in the house without the television set on”; “Doctors ought to think of some name for their outer office other than ‘waiting room’ ”). Rooney has solid credentials as an old-fashioned liberal of an almost extinct type, one who dislikes hubbub and loudmouths but dislikes injustice even more. He is also keenly aware of the contradictions of life in society, noting, “If I were black, I would be a militant, angry black man, railing against the injustices that have been done me. Being white, I think blacks should forget it and go to work.” Most of the views gathered here are less provocative, however. Readers who think of Rooney as a lightweight may be surprised to find that he has meaty credentials as a journalist and writer, going back to his days with Stars and Stripes in World War II, when he wrote a book about the work of bomber crews that Edmund Wilson was moved to single out for praise in the New Yorker. Still, the present collection is mostly made up of offhand remarks about how much things have changed between then and now (“You don’t have to go to Mexico to get a taco”)—all vintage Rooney, of course, but with few surprises.
Rooney’s admirers won’t mind, though those unfamiliar with the commentator will wonder at the oddness of it all.