Perfect Pitch

Let Me Finish

Roger Angell

Harcourt, $25, 293 pp.

I always feel a frisson of delight at opening a New Yorker and finding a piece by Roger Angell. Favorite essays are still etched in memory-an evocation of the pitcher Vida Blue’s magical rookie season some thirty years ago, an astonishing page-long riff on palindromes, the Christmas poems that never fail to come up with the most improbable rhymes for the names of all that year’s splashiest celebrities. Angell’s trademarks are crystalline prose, sparkling humor, and a poet’s eye for the fleeting moments that stamp permanent memories.

It is a pleasure to report that his memoir, Let Me Finish, produced in the middle of his ninth decade, is yet another unpretentious exercise of Angellian virtuosity. Not at all a formal autobiography-Angell could never be so stuffy-it is a pearl-string of striking moments that convey a rounded picture of a life that he concedes, was “sheltered by privilege and engrossing work, and shot through with great good luck.”

Angell was born in 1920 and came of age before the democratization of leisure, when America’s upper-middle classes, who were frequently not wealthy, could enjoy accoutrements of life that are now affordable only by hedge-fund managers. It was also something of a golden age in New York City, when professional people of middling attainments could find...

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About the Author

Charles R. Morris, a Commonweal columnist, is the author of The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown (Public Affairs), among other books, and is a fellow at the Century Foundation.