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A 93-year old's Valentine

Roger Angell, long a staple at the New Yorker, appears in the anniversary issue under the title "This Old Man."   Lightly noting the drawbacks of aging, he celebrates his happy existence:

"I've endured a few knocks but missed worse. I know how lucky i am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab a sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds. The pains and insults  are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I've learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back  a warning, I'll pause meaningfully, duh, and something else comes to mind."

He reports an active social and intellectual life as well as the ability to summon both the recent dead and those long gone--a testament to his good memory.

A remarkably cheerful and insightful essay by the man who used to write the New Yorker's annual Christmas letter (rhymed with perfect meter). Alas, they have become very stingy on that score as well as putting their on-line edition behind a series of check points--even for print subscribers. In case you can't get there, a visit to the dentist's office will certainly turn up the issue (February 17 and 24, 2014).

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Thanks for this article, margaret. IMHO, and I think the opinion of many others, Roger Angell is one of the best sportswriters of all time, and perhaps the best to ever write about baseball.

A 2006 article about him in Sports Illustrated:


For all fans of the game (and especially the Red Sox) to hear him read "Game Six" in the "Selected Shorts" he did those many years ago he did with the late and wonderful Bart Giamatti isa quasi-religious expereince! And Giamatti's intro confirms your point.

This will show where my attention focuses: never knew he wrote about baseball! I must have skipped those articles.

What a confession, Margaret! Baseball is a miracle of biblical proportions.

That may be. But there is a world beyond biblical. For example: Take a look at this:

"We were walking back to the office after lunch one day last week when we noticed that the man walking just eighteen inches to our left was Harry Truman. He was alone & so were we, & his pace & direction were identical with ours; under the circumstances, we decided it would be unfriendly not to speak. We managed a small sidwise bow, and said, "It's nice to see you in town, sir."

"Why, thank you very much," said Mr. Truman, with a much more graceful sidewise bow. "I appreciate that more than I can say."

Bernard, the miracle ended in 1994. Since then, baseball's Moses has been Bud Selig for whom tradition is what starts tomorrow. Margaret, you aren't missing anything.

TB: I wasn't even missing Roger Angell. That snippet just above was from "The Talk of the Town," which he must have written regularly.  The quasi-editorials that now appear there are no substitute.

MOS, Yes, Angell wrote many Talk of the Town pieces. Hemingway wrote a couple of plays, but they are not what he was best at.

The most moving thing about the piece was the way he worked it around to the never-ending hunger for sexual connection.  I had the sense that was what he really wished the essay to be about.  I liked him for it.

I know this is moving off the baseball thread, but the beginnings of Spring training impel me to make a last comment here...Margaret,  you owe yourself a treat to read (better to listen if you can get a copy of that "Selected Shorts" from the reading at Carnegie Hall from 20+ years ago) of Bart Giamatti's "The Greenfields of the Mind"-- one of best essays to really understand the game... and if you wish to go further, read John Updike's novella "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" about Ted Williams last game -- exquisite writing and a deep sense of "the game." 'Nuf said...!

KM: Yes sexual connection--and human connection at 93. That's what the whole essay was about--among the living and the dead.

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