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« The Big Three. . .as Roland Garos Begins | Main | Dante, Near and Far [by Robert P. Baird] »

May 23, 2022


Here's another version. In 1978 I sent a story to New Yorker. It was about a businessman who has some sort of seizure in his office and is revived by his secretary. Some time later I got a handwritten note from Roger Angell. I was not familiar with him at the time. The note did not say they were turning down the story. It cut to the chase. It just said that the story was the most outrageous thing he had ever seen.

Looking back, maybe this was some sort of challenge or invitation for me to follow up or keep submitting. But I did neither. Foolishly, I threw the note away without another thought.

Why was this foolish? One thing about Roger Angell, and I say this with (almost) unfiltered admiration: in his work and perhaps in other areas of his life he was absolutely perfectly calibrated to capture the benevolence of the New Yorker readers, and even of New Yorker readers who didn't read the New Yorker. He never put a foot wrong. David Remnick's portrait of Roger Angell in the current issue expresses this very well. So maybe my takeaway from his note should have been -- as in the title of the Hemingway story -- "a way you'll never be."

Instead of ignoring it, I should have learned from it. As our sages teach, "Who is wise? He who learns from everyone."

That's great, Alan. And how smart of you to keep the tape. Do you have the story in such a form that we can post it? Mitch, do you have a cop[y of the 1978 story in question? What a wonderful post and comment!

Mitch: I wonder what nerve was so struck not only to cause Roger Angell such outrage but also for him to use the words "most outrageous" to an author he didn't know. Must have been one hell of a story.

David: I actually have the manuscript with Angell's edits. I'll dig it up and send it along.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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