17 May 2007

Dept. of Cloppier Times

In a Talk of the Town piece, you don't see the writer's name until the end, set discreetly behind an em dash. When an author's reputation succeeds him in this way, you can work up all sorts of funny feelings before you figure out who he is.
"Horsepresence took another hit last month, when the ancient Claremont Riding Academy, on West Eighty-ninth Street, closed its doors, reducing our equines to that redolent line of tourist-pullers on Central Park South. A few older city types (this writer among them) can remember cloppier times."
Horsepresence? Tourist-pullers? Cloppier times? Who the hell is this huckst—oh, Roger Angell. I guess that's okay.

Angell, who would be the weirdest and most affected 45-year-old in New York, turns 87 this year, as it turns out. That forgives him some anachronistic phrasings.

Plus, he's the stepson of a great writer. Until I read his intro to the new edition of the semi-sacred "Elements of Style" (and again thought, Who the hell?) I didn't realize that his mom, a New Yorker editor named Katherine Angell, married the "renowned essayist" E. B. White. And that sorts out his pedigree, sort of.

The only real measure of a writer is his writing, of course—the only reason Paul Theroux is still invited to dinner. Angell's prose is admirable, ambling, thick with detail—particularly his meditations on baseball. I remember warmly his tidy comment about the Red Sox after they'd won the pennant, and a longer piece, further back, about a statistics whiz who'd reformed the team's system of scouting.

Tell me this: How do you pronounce his last name? It's one of those ones I'm always afraid of saying wrong, like 'deluge.'


zp said...

Angell cracks me up.

The first time I noticed that I was reading something by him, it was, I think, a memory of his uncle in the bathtub, published in TNY in 2004. However, as I was reading it, it was so over the top, I thought it was a kind of "Shouts and Murmurs," with the author speaking through a (maybe more so than otherwise) fictional persona. Come to find out, no, he's just like that, and old, and the stepson (?) of EB White, etc . . .

JJB said...

Woo, thanks for that: got confused by the lineage.

That's how I feel, too: fictional persona. Before I knew his name and age, all I could think was, What kind of jokey poser is this guy? Now I only feel that way about Garrison Keillor.

Stephen Connolly said...

His name is pronounced like guardian angel. I've heard him on NPR a few times. I also used to read his baseball books, which are compendiums of New Yorker pieces, before I found better time-wasters than baseball.

Stephen Connolly said...

This pronunciation uncertainty can be embarrassing. When I first met my wife she started talking about Albert
Kaymus until I figured out she was actually referring to Kamoo. Camus to me and you. She figured I had a leg-up on French pronunciation being Canadian and all.