Roger Angell may be best known for his books on baseball, but his talents transcend sports reportage. The author of favorites like The Summer Game and Season Ticket has produced a new collection of essays in which his skills as a memoirist are amply evident. Let Me Finish contains 17 pieces that cohere beautifully to form an overview of Angell's remarkable life, from his years at Harvard, to his service during the Second World War, to holidays spent with his mother, Katherine Angell, a longtime New Yorker editor, and his stepfather, beloved author E.B. White. Capturing the culture of 1930s New York, many of the essays evoke a time when movies cost a dime, manners mattered and divorces, like the bitter one that occurred between Angell's parents, were a source of scandal. The author's father, Ernest Angell, a brilliant and eccentric lawyer, personifies the period. Remembered fondly in the lively essay The King of the Forest, he presided over the family brownstone in New York, for a time as a single parent, giving his children Roger and his sister, Nancy a comfortable upbringing that included a series of governesses and servants from France.
Unscathed by his parents' split, Angell spent many weekends and summers with his mother and stepfather on their farm in Maine. In Andy, an intimate and fascinating profile of E.B. White, he observes the pair at work, a New England light industry churning out material long-distance for The New Yorker. Both had 50-year affiliations with the magazine, and Angell would follow in their footsteps. Indeed, the book's centerpiece is At the Comic Weekly, a delightful look at the author's own five-decade tenure with the publication. Providing an insider's view of the magazine, the essay is filled with unforgettable anecdotes and bits of harmless (but nevertheless delicious) gossip about the editors and writers Angell has encountered there. The names are awe-inspiring: William Maxwell, Donald Barthelme, Alice Munro, Ann Beattie. In writing about his early years on the staff, Angell recalls moving into his mother's old office after a promotion and opening a closet door to find a tin of Coty face powder she left there 20 years before. Small wonder he should refer to The New Yorker as the family store. Angell's essays possess all the charm and allure of the bygone days they describe. Nostalgic without being sentimental, they're stylish, classy pieces written with the kind of clear-sighted integrity that characterized the work of his stepfather. Despite the implications of the book's title, let's hope Angell isn't finished. They just don't make 'em like this anymore.