introducing readers to writers since 1995

October 19, 2004

Roger Angell Gets Out Just in Time to See Sox Rally

by Ron Hogan

liebling.jpgEven though I only found out about it one minute before it was scheduled to start, I still felt bad about missing all the famous writers at the A. J. Liebling centennial tribute at NYU's journalism school, but I'd already missed as many innings of Game 5 as I was willing to miss...and, yes, once again, I stayed with it until the very end as Ortiz, once again, staved off the inevitable. I'm dying to find some time to get into the recent batch of Liebling reprints, including The Sweetest Science and The Telephone Booth Indian. I've had a chance to glance at the introduction James Salter wrote for another Liebling reissue, Between Meals, and it drove me nuts in the second paragraph:

Journalists cannot expect their work to last. Even Dreiser's or Hemingway's articles are of little interest to us. Though the standards for prose at The New Yorker were and are unusually high, there is only so much room in the stacks to be given to things of passing concern, and magazine pieces are not the path to being remembered.

Tell that to Joe Mitchell (or John Hershey, since Hiroshima was a "magazine piece"). The condescending tone continues when we're told "Liebling had remarkable talent although he may not have made the best use of it" because he was a journalist and not a fiction writer. (In fact, Salter only seems to like Between Meals, which started out as "magazine pieces," to the extent that it's memoir rather than reportage.) But anyway, I've got those, and I've got Just Enough Liebling, and I'm looking forward to experiencing firsthand the prose I've heard so much about over the years from folks who would tell me, sure, Mitchell's alright, but you have to check out the Liebling. Charles McGrath admires the man's range, though he's not completely satisfied with the selections in Just Enough. Neither is Terry Teachout--who will be happy to hear, if he hasn't already, that The Earl of Louisiana is already back in print thanks to LSU Press--and he's got some strong ideas about what should have been included. (By the way, David Remnick's introduction to Just Enough is in the New Yorker archives, having run as an article last spring.) I'll definitely be keeping their caveats in mind as I read, when I read, but I'm sure I'll be grateful just to be able to see what I can see.

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