Monday, June 9, 2014

Meet the 93-year-old journalist who still goes to work almost every day

For more than five decades now, Roger Angell has worked at the hallowed New Yorker magazine.

And during that time, as Sridhar Pappu points out in an elegantly written profile for Women's Wear Daily (also known as the bible of fashion), Angell has edited fiction and non-fiction while also publishing his own light-verse poems, short stories, profiles, and other features in the New Yorker's pages.


A few months ago, Angell made news on his own when he wrote a piece for the New Yorker that, as Pappu says in the profile, "managed to cut through the noise, becoming a subject of conversation at Manhattan cocktail parties and in Brooklyn bars while also generating thousands of tweets and more than 40,000 Facebook shares".

No wonder it created such a buzz. Look at that zinger of an opener:
Check me out. The top two knuckles of my left hand look as if I’d been worked over by the K.G.B. No, it’s more as if I’d been a catcher for the Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings, the inventor of the curveball, who retired from the game in 1877. To put this another way, if I pointed that hand at you like a pistol and fired at your nose, the bullet would nail you in the left knee. Arthritis.

And here's another passage that speaks volumes for Angell's sense of humour:
Decline and disaster impend, but my thoughts don’t linger there. It shouldn’t surprise me if at this time next week I’m surrounded by family, gathered on short notice—they’re sad and shocked but also a little pissed off to be here—to help decide, after what’s happened, what’s to be done with me now. It must be this hovering knowledge, that two-ton safe swaying on a frayed rope just over my head, that makes everyone so glad to see me again. “How great you’re looking! Wow, tell me your secret!” they kindly cry when they happen upon me crossing the street or exiting a dinghy or departing an X-ray room, while the little balloon over their heads reads, “Holy shit—he’s still vertical!”

Read Angell's marvellous essay in its entirety here: "This Old Man".

And check out the profile written by Sridhar Pappu here: "Roger Angell: A Hall-of-Famer at 93".
  • Two delectable nuggets from the profile:
*The writers Angell has edited include Woody Allen and John Updike.

*In 1956, [the editor of the New Yorker] gave Angell a staff position, only to ask him to take an editing test at the last minute. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to take a test,’ ” Angell recalls. “I said, ‘I’ll start, and if it doesn’t work out, you can fire me.’ And it worked out.”
  • Photograph courtesy: The New Yorker
  • Back in June 2000, Sridhar Pappu had written an essay for Salon about his "experience with the new world of high-stakes Indian American dating". Read it here: "Deranged marriage".
ALSO READ: In the New Yorker — "Citizens Jain: Why India's newspaper industry is thriving"

  • Patrick Michael, editor of the Dubai-based Khaleej Times, commented via Google+
What a zinger of an opening line! Reminds you of Charles Dickens (classics) and Raymond Chandler (non-fiction).

What is it about words that can stop you in your tracks no matter what you are doing? Opening lines was actually a topic for debate at the recent Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai and almost all the authors agreed that an opening lines makes all the difference between picking up or dropping a book. Perhaps you should invite your students to offer the best opening lines they have read... and the worst.

Here's mine:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Beat that.

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