A collection of personal pieces, combined into an affecting memoir by longtime New Yorker editor Angell.
The author, a noted baseball writer (A Pitcher’s Story, 2001, etc.), has many intimate connections to the magazine Gardner Botsford once dubbed “The Comic Weekly,” in which most of these reminiscences originally appeared. His mother, Katherine, was the New Yorker’s fiction editor; years later, Angell held her former job—and occupied her office. His stepfather, E.B. White, was the magazine’s most important contributor during its most influential years. The memoir mostly concerns New Yorker colleagues and other remarkable people who have been a part of the author’s life. His father, lawyer Ernest Angell, lost Katherine to the younger White but over the years became a figure of immense importance to Roger. Angell loved his mother, loved White, loved his first wife (not much here about the cause of their 1960s divorce), loved his coworkers, loved his job. His portraits are really tributes, whether of the well-known William Maxwell, V.S. Pritchett, Harold Ross or William Shawn, or the lesser-known Botsford and Emily Hahn. Angell offers some New Yorker–insider tidbits (Ian Frazier mimicked Shawn’s voice so well that he could fool colleagues over the phone) and a bit more than you want to know about some of his aunts, one of whom wrote a book about Willa Cather. A dazzling story-within-a-story describes a 1940 round of golf with a mysterious woman who lost a valuable ring. The author seems uncertain how an iPod works but reveals an expertise with machine guns. His fickle memory frustrates and bemuses him. Sometimes he can recall only sensory images; sometimes the story unreeling in his mind skips, stops, fades, dissolves into something else. In several of his most appealing passages, he writes about the fictions that memory fashions.
Graceful and deeply felt.