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Let Me Finish

by

Let Me Finish Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Romance

 

 

One 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 shed described him. I think I wasnt meant to be there; maybe a Saturday date with a schoolmate had fallen through, and shed 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, Im back, were 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 dont 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 powerful getaway car swiftly outdistanced police pursuers,” he changed sides. “Cmon, Buick!” he said. ­“Go!”

            Every family has its own car stories, but in another sense we know them all in advance now, regardless of our age. The collective American unconscious is stuffed with old Pontiacs, and fresh reminders are never lacking. Weekend rallies flood the Mendocino or Montpelier back roads with high­-­roofed Model As and Chevys, revarnished 1936 Woodies, and thrumming, leaf­-­tone T­-­Birds; that same night, back home again or with our feet up at the Hyatt, we click onto TCM and find The Grapes of Wrath, or ­Bonnie and Clyde, or Five Easy Pieces, or Thelma & Louise, waiting to put us out on the narrow, anachronism­-­free mac­adam once again. (A friend of mine used to drive around the Village in his 1938 De Soto hearse, except when it was out on lease to still another Godfather movie.) Grand­children, clicking to 50 Cent or Eminem on their iPods in the back seat, sigh and roll their eyes whenever the old highwayman starts up again. Yes, car travel was bumpier and curvier back then, with more traffic lights and billboards, more cows and hillside graveyards, no air­-­conditioning and almost no interstates, and with tin cans and Nehi signs and red Burma­-­Shave jingles crowding the narrow roadside. Give us a ­break.

 

           Still, we drove, and what startles me from this great distance is how often and how far. I was a New York City kid who knew the subways and museums and movie theatres and zoos and ballparks by heart, but in the 1930s also got out of town a lot, mostly by car. I drove (well, was driven) to Bear Mountain and Atlantic City and Gettysburg and Niagara Falls; went repeatedly to Boston and New Hampshire and Maine; drove to a Missouri cattle farm owned by an uncle; drove there during another summer and thence onward to Santa Fe and Tesuque and out to the Arizona Painted Desert. Then back again, to New York. Before this, in March, 1933—it was the week of Franklin Delano Roosevelts first inaugural—Id boarded a Greyhound bus to Detroit, along with a Columbia student named Tex Goldschmidt, where we picked up a test­-­model Terraplane sedan at the factory (courtesy of an advertising friend of my fathers who handled the Hudson­-­Essex account) and drove it back home. A couple of months later, in company with a math teacher named Mr. Burchell or Burkhill and four Lincoln School seventh­-­grade classmates, I crammed into a buckety old Buick sedan and drove to the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago; we came back by way of Niagara Falls, and, because I had been there before and knew the ropes, took time also to visit the Shredded Wheat factory, some tacky mummies, and a terrific fifty­-­cent roadside exhibition of dented and rusty, candy­-­wrapper­-­littered barrels and iron balls in which various over­-­the­-­brink daredevils had mostly met their end. With one exception, all of us in our party were still ­speaking.

 

           If I now hop aboard some of these bygone trips for a mile or two, it is not for the sake of easy nostalgia—the fizz of warm moxie up your nose; the Nabokovian names of roadside tourist cottages; the glint of shattered glass and sheen of blood around a tree­-­crumpled gray Reo; or the memory of collies and children, unaccustomed to auto­-­motion, throwing up beside their hastily parked family vehicles—but in search of some thread or path that links these outings and sometimes puts Canandaigua or Kirks­ville or Keams Canyon back in my head when I wake up in the middle of the night. Effort can now and then produce a sudden fragment of locality: the car stopped and me waking up with my sweating cheek against the gray plush of the back seat, as I stare at a mystifying message, “VEEDOL,” painted on a square of white tin so bright in the sun that it makes me wince. Veedol? Beyond it, against the stucco gas­-­station wall, is a handmade sign, wavery in the gasoline fumes rising outside my window. Where are we? I want to sit up and ask my father, standing out there in his sneakers, khaki pants, and an old shirt with rolled­-­up sleeves, who is fishing his thick brown wallet—were on a long haul to somewhere—out of a hip pocket, but Im too dazed to ­speak.

 

           The first day of that 1933 school trip to the Chicago Worlds Fair went on forever, and it was after dark when we topped a hillside in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, slowed at the vision of Pittsburgh alight in the distance, and felt a little lurch and jolt as the right rear wheel fell off the Buick and rolled gently on ahead for a few yards by itself. I cant remember dinner, but it was past midnight when, rewheeled, we pulled up at the McKeesport YMCA and settled for two double rooms, plus cots. Jerry Tallmer, a surviving member of the party, tells me that a fellow traveler, less suave than the rest of us, confessed to him later that until this moment hed held a childhood notion that if you werent in bed by midnight you died. Out in Chicago, we took in the House of Tomorrow and Buckminster Fullers Dymaxion Car; ogled Sally Rands “Streets of Paris” but didnt attend; went to the Museum of Natural History; laughed at Chicagos dinky elevated cars; and in our little notebooks wrote down that Depression soup kitchen lines in Chicago looked exactly like the ones in depressed New York. We were smart and serious, and would be expected to report on this trip in Social Studies, come fall. The Century of Progress, we concluded, was mostly about advertising. One afternoon, the temperature went down twenty­-­nine degrees in an hour and a half as a black storm blew in from over Lake Michigan; the next morning we read that the sightseeing plane whose ticket window wed seen at the Fair had crashed, killing all aboard. Three days later, wheeling south from Niagara Falls, my companions (including the heroic Burkhill or Burchell, who did all the driving) offered to pay me two dollars apiece if Id just shut up for a change, and not speak another word for the rest of the trip. Unaffronted and short of cash, I agreed, and collected my princely ten bucks while we were passing under the new George Washington Bridge, just about ­home.

Copyright © 2006 by Roger ­Angell

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be

reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,

electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording,

or any information storage and retrieval system, without

permission in writing from the ­publisher.

 

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the

work should be mailed to the following address:

Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,

6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887­-­6777.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780151013500
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Subject:
Literary
Author:
Menaker, Daniel
Author:
Angell, Roger
Author:
Hall, Donald
Subject:
Authors
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
Sportswriters
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Editors, Journalists, Publishers
Subject:
HIS036080
Subject:
Sportswriters -- United States.
Subject:
Authors -- United States.
Subject:
Biography - General
Subject:
Essays
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
May 8, 2006
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.63 in

Related Subjects


Biography » General
History and Social Science » Journalism » Journalists

Let Me Finish
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 256 pages Harcourt - English 9780151013500 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Over the past few years, New Yorker readers have been treated to the occasional personal reflection from Angell, stepping outside his usual baseball beat to write about such intimacies as his passion for sailing or his childhood fascination with the movies. It's the family drama that's of most immediate interest, as Angell recalls the divorce of his parents, Ernest and Katherine Angell, and his mother's subsequent remarriage to E.B. White, affectionately known as Andy. Or perhaps readers will be more eager to hear about life at the New Yorker, especially since Angell admits, 'I no longer expect to write' much more about his fellow writers and editors than the miniature portraits collected here (but thankfully we do have such scenes as the visit he and S.J. Perelman paid to W. Somerset Maugham while vacationing in France in 1949). Whatever the subject, Angell writes with his customary elegance and modesty; 'I've kept quiet about my trifling army career all these years,' he says in one essay, just before spinning off a series of captivating anecdotes about his WWII service. The assembled pieces add up to a fine memoir." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] selective, meditative, bittersweet collection....Wistful, full of rich details of life in the 1930s and 1940s, and of midcentury times at the magazine....The quality of his prose and the tone of his voice make Angell a pleasure to read even when the material seems dutifully rather than passionately offered. And he remains a delightful raconteur..." (read the entire VQR review)
"Review" by , "It is the perfect book to read with one of Angell's vodka martinis."
"Review" by , "What Angell writes...contains truths: 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."
"Review" by , "It turns out that in between the innings spent at baseball stadiums, Angell has lived well. The details unfold gradually in these stories, without hurry, but in time they add up to a rich portrait of a quintessential American life."
"Review" by , "Read together, Angell's casuals are painstaking craft, one that stops time and...relinquishes it. He uses memory not as a statement but as a hypothesis."
"Review" by , "Let Me Finish doesn't break new ground in the field of autobiography and memoir, but it reads fresh, and unlike nearly all recollections of recent vintage, makes you wish the writer had gone on a bit longer."
"Review" by , "Angell's writing remains fresh, lively, and appealingly thoughtful."
"Review" by , "[T]here is an endearing objectivity...and a lingering sense of bemused surprise that so much can be remembered so fondly."
"Review" by , "Graceful and deeply felt."
"Synopsis" by , From a former Poet Laureate, a new collection of essays delivering a gloriously unexpected view from the vantage point of very old age

 

 

"Synopsis" by , A wry, witty, often tender memoir by a former New Yorker and Random House editor who has great tales of a life in words.
"Synopsis" by , A wry, witty, often tender memoir by a former New Yorker editor, magazine writer, and book publisher who offers great tales of a life in words Daniel Menaker started as a fact checker at The New Yorker in 1969. With luck, hard work, and the support of William Maxwell, he was eventually promoted to editor. Never beloved by William Shawn, he was advised early on to find a position elsewhere; he stayed for another twenty-four years. Now Menaker brings us a new view of life in that wonderfully strange place and beyond, throughout his more than forty years working to celebrate language and good writing. He tells us his own story, too—with irrepressible style and honesty—of a life spent persevering through often difficult, nearly always difficult-to-read, situations. Haunted by a self-doubt sharpened by his role in his brothers unexpected death, he offers wry, hilarious observations on publishing, child-rearing, parent-losing, and the writing life. But as time goes by, we witness something far beyond the incidental: a moving, thoughtful meditation on years well lived, well read, and well spent. Full of mistakes, perhaps. But full of effort, full of accomplishment, full of life.
"Synopsis" by ,
From a former Poet Laureate, a new collection of essays delivering a gloriously unexpected view from the vantage point of very old age
 
Donald Hall has lived a remarkable life of letters, a career capped by a National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president. Now, in the “unknown, unanticipated galaxy” of very old age, he is writing searching essays that startle, move, and delight. In the transgressive and horrifyingly funny “No Smoking,” he looks back over his lifetime, and several of his ancestors lifetimes, of smoking unfiltered cigarettes, packs of them every day. Hall paints his past: “Decades followed each other — thirty was terrifying, forty I never noticed because I was drunk, fifty was best with a total change of life, sixty extended the bliss of fifty . . .” And, poignantly, often joyfully, he limns his present: “When I turned eighty and rubbed testosterone on my chest, my beard roared like a lion and gained four inches.” Most memorably, Hall writes about his enduring love affair with his ancestral Eagle Pond Farm and with the writing life that sustains him, every day: “Yesterday my first nap was at 9:30 a.m., but when I awoke I wrote again.”
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