From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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. (May 8)
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*Starred Review* New Yorker readers have been savoring Angell's autobiographical essays every few months for the last three years. Now they can be read consecutively, and the effect is both less and more than a traditional autobiography: less because there is no attempt to tell the story of a life as a developing narrative, but more because the book unfolds like memories do, a single image crystallizing a traumatic event or encapsulating a period of years ("the look of the overgrown lawn and our knees oddly in a row," when Angell is told by his mother about her impending divorce). The topics of the individual essays range from baseball in the 1930s (Gehrig and Ruth in Yankee Stadium, Mel Ott and Bill Terry at the Polo Grounds) to friends, family, and colleagues at the New Yorker, where Angell, now in his eighties, has worked for 40 years and where his mother, Katherine, and stepfather, E. B. White, worked before him. His recollections of literary people are uniformly fascinating, as much for the low-key manner in which they are related as for the glimpses they offer into the private lives of such luminaries as William Maxwell and S. J. Perelman. The most memorable aspects of this captivating chronicle, however, are the purely personal memories. Describing his teenage attempt to become a screwball-throwing pitcher in the manner of Carl Hubbell, Angell notes that after he threw his arm out, he "took up smoking and irony in self-defense." The irony never left him; it flavors these graceful essays throughout, but it never tastes bitter. Instead, there is an endearing objectivity ("I've had a life sheltered by privilege, and engrossing work, and shot through with good luck") and a lingering sense of bemused surprise that so much can be remembered so fondly. Bill Ott
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