Read an Excerpt
A Day in the Life of Roger Angell
Parodies and Other Pleasures
By Roger Angell
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Roger Angell
All rights reserved.
(More Unsolicited Guidance from Out There)
Taurus (Apr. 21-May 21)
With Venus ascendant and frozen pork-belly futures holding firm, this is a week for modest household chores. Unkink and clean all shoelaces, not overlooking the lacing on your football. Recaulk the dog's water dish, the tank on the Water Pik, etc. Toward the end of the week, chair casters may be inspected in relative safety. Because of an enigmatic (or quietly amused) aspect of Mercury, it would be wiser not to get dressed before nightfall.
Gemini (May 22-June 21)
Sorry, Gemini people, but still no advice for you. Eleven weeks now and still not a word from the Stars for this dormant house! Oh, well, things are bound to start popping soon. Meantime, try not to do anything at all.
Cancer (June 22-July 22)
A confused period for you normally ebullient Crabs. Purely social occupations will help keep your mind off insomnia, erasers, and eastbound watercraft. Damp bathing suits may prove annoying on Tuesday, but try to keep your composure at all costs. Some rumpling of the eyebrows may be observed upon arising. An elderly terrier will be thinking about you over the weekend.
Leo (July 2 3-Aug. 23)
Your best week of the entire year for sheer recklessness. Obey that wiggy impulse! Vault subway turnstiles, dress up in your wife's clothes, tell off a policeman, coat yourself in peanut butter—it doesn't matter, for the Stars say this is your time to howl! A meditative period will descend late in the week, when you may wish to consult legal and medical experts.
Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23)
Those not born under this sign would do well to visit all their Virgo friends before 4:20 P.M. on Monday, but to stay well away thereafter. As for you Virgos—well, astrology is still a difficult science, and maybe we're reading these signs wrong, ha, ha! Good luck to you all.
Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 23)
A time for inwardness and mental housecleaning. Try to rid your mind of excess baggage. Forget about the Diet of Worms. Forget factoring, the cambium layer, Up with People!, and Sibyl Colefax. Get rid of the Rock of Chickamauga, the color of Ventnor Avenue, and the words of "Three Itty Fishies." Throw out Ipana Toothpaste, the auteur theory, and "anent." Try never to think about tundra. What a lot of trash you've been carrying around in the old bean! No wonder you can't make any money.
Scorpio (Oct. 24-Nov. 22)
Mars will be entering this house shortly after lunch on Tuesday, so you Scorpios, already habitually suspicious, would do well to double your guard in this period. If your friends have been whispering about you in the past, just think what they're saying now! Laundrymen and Celts may try to bilk you, possibly through the mails. An agent of a Balkan power, perhaps posing as a close relative, will try to blow nerve gas through your telephone receiver while you sleep. Next week will be worse.
Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 21)
All you Archers—so good-looking, so impetuous, so lovably harumscarum—have been making a perfect hash of your lives ever since the moon slipped off your cusp way back in March, 1964. Time to come down to earth! This week, try to study some modest, everyday object and appreciate its true nature. Study one of your thumbs, for instance. Not the handsomest of all your fingers, perhaps, but one that does the job, day in and day out, without fanfare or vaingloriousness. See how wrinkled it has grown around the knuckle, but with never a word of complaint. You are lucky to have stubby Mr. Thumbkin (a typical Gemini) working for you, and you might do well to emulate his patience. If you were a dog or a fox, your thumb would be way up by your wrist somewhere, and absolutely useless. What a lesson for us all!
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Rickey Henderson, Senator Mondale, Marilyn Home, J. D. Salinger, Henny Youngman, Phil Donahue, Bo Diddley, and President Nixon were all born under this sign, which rules the knees. The best guide to your week is to watch these fellow-Capricorns closely, for if things go well for them, they will go well for you, too. If they all have a terrible week—hamstring pulls, blocked legislation, tonsillitis, intrusive visitors, no laughs, etc.—so will you, in your own tiny way. You may find it difficult to discover much in common with each and every one of these Goat people, but that's the way astrology works, so stop complaining.
Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19)
Persons born under Aquarius are restless, indolent, fond of water sports, pleasing, and agreeable. Their greatest fault is procrastination. This will be a fine week for you to mooch around the house quietly, smoothing over family arguments and making friends with the milkman. Take a nap or look out the window for a while. Maybe you could get in a little surfing. On the other hand, why don't you wait and go surfing next week? What the hell.
Pisces (Feb. 20-Mar. 20)
This week climaxes a series of highly favorable indications for fish and Fish people. Go to the aquarium, take up fly-tying, buy a pair of guppies. Try codfish balls for breakfast—delicious! On Friday, before the onset of your coming counter-period of drought, why not throw a mammoth "Fish Fry"? Invite Hamilton Fish, Bob Trout, Ben Pollack, Dick Bass, Jean Shrimpton, Aldo Ray, Hulan Jack, Congressman Pike, etc. How they will laugh when they all "get it"!
Aries (Mar. 21-Apr. 20)
The stars tell us that during the coming six to eight weeks the Palestinian Liberation Organization will be overthrown by a Mormon clique; two members of the Quebec Nordiques will be unmasked as C.I.A. agents; Liverpool will be ravaged by locusts; Akron, Ohio, will slide into the Atlantic Ocean (you can't argue with the Stars); the International Monetary Fund will be rocked by a Jimmy Swaggart-type scandal; and an oil slick will imperil the Wollman Memorial Rink. In view of the world-shaking nature of these impending events, how can you pushy, invariably selfish Rams keep asking astrologists for help with your petty personal affairs? Enough, already! Can't you see we're busy?CHAPTER 2
In the Dough
Virginia Hardy's Story Writing Contest!
Virginia Hardy's Oven invites all patrons and friends to enter our Short Story Contest. At least one and as many as three stories will be selected each month for inclusion on Virginia Hardy's Oven pie boxes. (We print and distribute over a million boxes per year!) The author of each story selected will receive a prize of fifty free pies at any Virginia Hardy's Oven. Stories should be between 750 and 1250 words long, and, of course, suitable for general audiences. Please include a brief description of yourself suitable for our "About the author" section ...
—Notice on a pie box.
Mrs. Ishbel Carrington Shute
Mother Melmoth Pastry Pantries, Inc.
Dear Mrs. Shute:
Am enclosing proofs of "Queen of Hearts" in haste to catch deadline. Please restore and stet the lines inexplicably deleted by you on galley 2, from "Now, in delicious disarray ..." through "... a glimpse of regal bosom, charmingly dusted with an inadvertent dab of flour, that rose and fell, here within the sweet warmth of the summer kitchen, in quickened tempo. Knavish Jack, suddenly apant, stepped forward from the shadows," etc., etc. These sentences, rough and hand-hewn though they may appear, are essential to the ensuing chase scene, and also serve to render the Queen less distant and, yes, more earthily female, thus preparing your readers for the sensual reconciliation after the recapture of the purloined tarts. Please, dear Madam, stay your avid blue pencil here, recalling that an artist has pondered, sampled, and weighed each staple noun, each zesty adjective, each pinch of comma in his desire to create beauty at once nutritious and lighter than air. Exactly, in brief, like one of your master bakers.
Speaking of which, your payment for "Cherry, the Cobbler's Daughter" arrived today. Thanks for home delivery. And for the Lemon Meringues—they are scrumptious! We still have twenty-one Squash pies and eleven Boston Cream left over, thanks to your other recent acceptances, so the children welcomed this change of menu.
A new effort goes off to you tomorrow. I am dipping toe, tremblingly, into the icy seas of biography—the pie as history, so to speak.
Yours ever, Duane McConakree
Mr. Duane McConakree
Iowa City, Iowa
My Dear Duane (if I may):
Tremble no more. You have triumphed afresh, huzza! Not since the initial felicities of "Horner!" (now in its sixth edition—Rhubarb), or perhaps since I first cast a furtive tear over the joys of your "Shoo-Fly: A Rustic Romance," have I been so caught up, so held as I was by "Karl Robert Nesselrode, Lad of Old Russia." You have done us honor once again, and payment of fifty pies (Chocolate Nesselrode, natch) goes to you out of tonight's baking, plus a deserved bonus of thirty Old-Fashioned Southern Pecan. Don't thank us, please. The privilege of presenting your seemingly inexhaustible oeuvre upon our humble cardboard palimpsests is reward aplenty. I await your next
Enclosed find "Priscilla's Punkins"—in time, I trust, for a quick closing on an appropriate mid-November pub. date. It seems a graceful effort, but I find it more and more difficult to judge. To tell the truth, I am bored to near dementia by this facility of mine, this Niagara of pastry puffs, but my weird old muse stands over me, rolling pin in hand, and I can but obey.
Assuming acceptance again, may I request payment this time in a separate flavor? LaVerne and little Zachary hate pumpkin. Anent which, and at the risk of jarring our perfect author editor symbiosis, I wish to suggest a modest but commonsensical alteration in this matter of payment. This morning, during a thorough inspection of the dangerously overloaded shelves in our kitchen and laundry room, plus the teetering contents of three second-hand cupboards now doing makeshift service on the sun porch, I counted thirty-eight remaining Nesselrode pies, twenty-two Pecan, one Squash, four Lemon Meringue, forty-nine and a half Rhubarb (not, in truth, a terribly popular item here), eleven kuchen, one and one-quarter Coconut Cream, fourteen Butterscotch Chiffon, and sixteen assorted stale, crumbled, or unidentifiable, which I confiscated. This accounting does not include the nine dozen-odd pies that LaVerne has unloaded, for the merest fraction of their value, on our Eagle Discount manager and other surly local merchants, in lieu of the more common form of specie. We are, in short, amassing a corner in pies, and the essential flavor I now crave is Old Legal Tender.
These are sere times for writers of short fiction, God wot, but A. Daptable is my middle name. This hack, for one, is almost ecstatically grateful for the evidences of high literary seriousness to be found in (or on) your unusual publication. I write only in order to eat and to fill the four gaping maws within my nest, and all I ask, Ish, is a little less damned efficiency in this process. The mantle of George Horace Lorimer has fallen on the shoulders of your chef, yet this seems an insufficient excuse for the conversion of my home into a museum of pâtisserie. I am attempting to phrase this proposal in businesslike terms, eschewing mention of the increasingly doughy complexion of my loved ones, the Zeppelin-like recent configuration of my once lissome LaVerne, and the piteous cries that arise from the family dining table when yet another meal commences, continues, and concludes with implacably wedge-shaped helpings. Send cabbage, Mother Melmoth!
Accept the greeting, for you are not, as you have lately claimed, the Irving Wallace of Pie Writers but rather the Maupassant—nay, the Balzac. Truly, I had not guessed that our square, even boxy, little journal was ready for a tale of miscegenation and the ironies of a postbellum plantation romance, but today's submission, "Brown Betty," has quite taught me otherwise. In short, a triumph! There is even more good news, for Howard Johnson's has just chosen our Tarte aux Fraises (with your classic "Simple Simone" as text) as its Pie of the Month for August, which assures rich returns for all. By the way, our people in Accounting tell me that cash payments are a no-no, but they have promised to include three dozen Beef-and-Kidney in your next royalty, thus alleviating the little dietary problems you mentioned. Glad to be of help!
I give up. Can your treasurer be wholly unaware that it has been some little time since Western man inched out of the long darkness of the barter system and into the sunshine of freely redemptive currencies? Has he not had the news that U.S. Steel no longer pays its dividends in ingots? Has he ever tried settling his telephone bill with a half-dozen Banana Cream Tortes? Has he attempted to write lean, rivet-hard prose after a breakfast of Apricot Pan Dowdy (cold) and réchauffée Mince à la mode? I warn you, a man can be whipped just so far.
LaVerne, displaying a mobility quite uncharacteristic of most siege howitzers, has transformed our driveway and garage into a used-pie lot ("Drive In 'n' Nibble!"). Commercial response seems initially discouraging, but I am not absolutely sure about this, because the lady has not spoken to me these past three weeks.
I enclose, God forgive me, three new efforts—my last to you for some little time to come. I am determined to widen my market or quit this mad métier utterly.
Your threats do not convince me, for genius is simply not free to opt out. Conrad and Dostoevski also railed against the lonely dark, and yet did their duty in the end. I can hardly choose among the three new contes (a baker's dozen dozen's-worth of fresh pies for thee!), but "A Tragedy in Custard" was certainly the most surprising. Who but you could wring pathos from the plight of a Keystone pie-thrower with bone chips in his elbow?
Back again, as you foresaw. My attempts to escape the thrall of piedom have come to nothing. I have the rejection slips before me—from the Hasta Luego Chili Corp., Hedda Gobbler Frozen Turkey Parts, Old Shiloh Bourbon, Tweetie-Cat Pet Dinners, etc. A clean sweep, even including my delicate Petrarchan sonnet, "Con Formaggio," which came back on an instant ricochet from the Molto Buona Pizza people. Call me mad, for I am henceforth forever pied.
I am at least alone. Last Thursday, at five in the morning, our garage departed the premises in an eruption of noise and flame strongly reminiscent of a Cape Kennedy liftoff. Talk about pie in the sky ... Dawn disclosed the neighbors' topmost tree branches and most distant shrubbery prettily festooned with parts of variously flavored tarts, cobblers, meringues, and down-home deep-dishes, the whole resembling a direct hit on a Sicilian antipasto-works. Not a bad metaphor, in truth: I take this as a veiled warning from some local pastry-shop owner possibly miffed at our new venture in cut-rate pie-peddling. Later in the morning, while attempting to nail some pie plates over a gaping hole in our roof, I witnessed the final and not unexpected decampment of Herself and the bairns in the family auto—off, I don't doubt, in simultaneous search of a better-balanced diet and father. From my vantage point, the tableau resembled a Green Bay Packer making off with a shipment of medicine balls.
Alone now. My brain is but mincemeat, my soul chiffon, yet still shall I fight my way free ...
Do I detect a new, darker side to your prose? Why, I wonder. "Ludwig's Journey," for instance, has me a mite puzzled. It is, of course, a stunning theme: Ludwig, an ancient immigrant to our shores, forms an irresistible longing for one last slice of Bavarian Cream pie homemade in his own native Bavarian hamlet. Exchanging his life savings for a steerage ticket, he reaches Europe and then falls victim to a gang of ruffians in Le Havre, who rob him of his all. Nothing daunted, he presses on by foot, hobbling half the breadth of the Continent in hopes of that last one memorable mouthful. Winter falls, and our aged hero becomes lost in the Black Forest. He struggles on, the vision of Bavarian Cream before him. At last, he climbs the final mountain escarpment between himself and his goal, and is swept up in an avalanche that deposits him, more dead than alive, at the very door of his village piemaker.
Excerpted from A Day in the Life of Roger Angell by Roger Angell. Copyright © 1990 Roger Angell. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.