In 1944, Roger Angell sold a short story to The New Yorker. He was, perhaps, an outsider’s idea of an insider—his mother, the editor Katharine White, worked at the magazine. What followed, a career at The New Yorker2020欧洲杯最新战况 now in its eighth decade, has spanned a range of roles and genres that would have seemed inconceivable in 1944, some of them because they did not exist until Angell invented them. He soon abandoned writing fiction for editing it, joining the fiction department in 1956. Six years later, after a suggestion from William Shawn, Angell headed to Sarasota for baseball’s spring training; since then, his writing about the sport has been the standard by which others are measured. In 2014, the National Baseball Hall of Fame gave him the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, its highest honor for writers. At Cooperstown, he went in with Joe Torre, his longtime source and friend.
For many years, Angell was known outside The New Yorker mostly as a baseball writer. In the late nineties, with the encouragement of first Tina Brown and then David Remnick, he began to write about himself—tangentially, at least. His essays about Martinis, divorce, and the Second World War were piercing and lively, funny and occasionally just very deeply sad. He had been known as a great baseball writer—now it was clear that he was a great writer. In 2014, Angell published a piece called “This Old Man,” an account of the mixed blessings of old age. At ninety-three, he went viral.
Angell is now ninety-nine, and it is tempting to view him as a keeper of institutional memory, a plaque on the wall reading “This was The New Yorker.” And, indeed, he can tell anecdotes about writers and editors from all eras of the magazine. But he’s more likely to say, “I learned something truly amazing today!” For the Anniversary Issue, I visited him at the apartment he shares with his wife, Peggy Moorman, to talk about his life at the magazine.
When you were growing up, and your mother, Katharine White, was working at The New Yorker, would you go into the office?
2020欧洲杯最新战况Now and then. I’d visit her and we’d often go out for lunch at speakeasies—what you’d think of now as an Italian restaurant—because there was better food. There was one near the office called Mino’s, where we used to sometimes have lunch.
So when did you first start seeing people from the magazine?
My mother became an editor a few months after the magazine started. I was five years old. After my parents were divorced, and my mother married E. B. (Andy) White, I saw her on frequent long weekends and long vacations. The conversation would be about Harold Ross and The New Yorker2020欧洲杯最新战况, and I was an avid listener.
2020欧洲杯最新战况The great thing about Ross, which I figured out over the years, is the amount of power, influence, taste, and judgment he entrusted to women, my mother among them. During the war, he had two foreign correspondents—Mollie Panter-Downes, in London, and Janet Flanner, in France. These were big jobs. And my mother did more and more at the magazine. She became a poetry editor, she became a fiction editor, and, within less than ten years, she was also one of the art editors, sitting in on art meetings.
Ross counted on her for everything. He was nothing like her: he’d not been to college; he had grown up in Aspen, Colorado, and gone straight to the newspapers, and then was the editor of the Stars & Stripes,2020欧洲杯最新战况 in Europe, during the First World War. And he’s reputed to have talked obscenely, but most of these “obscenities” were along the lines of “Oh, my God.”
Do you know how she got the job?
I think that Ross was probably looking for somebody with a little culture. He had male writers that he knew and drank with, and I think he wanted a woman, and he got one. And he really recognized very quickly how good she was, how strong her judgment was. She asserted herself—she was not frightened by Ross in any way.
Do you remember some of the first pieces that you actually read in the magazine?
I can’t remember the pieces; what I did as a kid was memorize the cartoons. There were bound copies of all the back issues in my mother and Andy’s house, in Maine. When I was about thirteen or fourteen I said, “I can give the caption to every drawing that’s ever been in the magazine.” And they said, “Come on, show us.” And I did—I’d memorized every single caption of every cartoon. I didn’t always understand them. There was a beautiful Helen Hokinson drawing of a middle-aged lady at a bookstore booth in Paris saying, “Avez-vous ‘Ulysses’?” because James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was banned in this country.
When did you start writing yourself?
Well, when I was nine, Andy White sent a verse of mine to Franklin P. Adams, whose “Conning Tower” was, at the time, the most important column in the World2020欧洲杯最新战况, a significant daily newspaper. My verse went:
2020欧洲杯最新战况And that was signed “Roger A., Nine.”
2020欧洲杯最新战况Then in high school, at Pomfret, I tried out for the school newspaper, and one of the first people I interviewed was Benny Goodman. I was fourteen or fifteen, and I went to the Madhattan Room, at the Hotel Pennsylvania, where he was playing, and one of the people there was S. J. Perelman, a young humor writer my mother knew, and he knew Benny Goodman.
I asked Benny Goodman if I could interview him, and he said, “Come to my hotel room tomorrow, at one in the afternoon.” So I went up at one and rang his bell and rang it and rang it, and then he came to the door wearing his jockey shorts and his eyeglasses, very sleepy. I’d woken him up. My lede on the story was “Great bandleaders get to sleep late.”
2020欧洲杯最新战况And a couple of years later—or maybe later that year—a friend and I went down to City Hall to visit Fiorello LaGuardia, on our own, and said, “Can we interview the mayor?” And they said, “Sure, that’d be O.K., sit there.” And we sat all day outside his office, and people came and went, and they brought us food, and then, in the end, we got in. And I noted that LaGuardia was so short that when he sat in his mayoral chair, his feet didn’t touch the ground. We had prepared a good question: “Do you think that any kids in New York public schools can get an education as good as we’re getting at private school?” And he went off like a rocket! He began yelling and carrying on, and then he stopped and looked . . . and he said, “You got me.”