Read the introduction, plus an excerpt, of Andy Rooney's new book, "60 Years of Wisdom and Wit." The book, now available, was published by PublicAffairs.
Introduction by Brian Rooney
It was not clear to me as a child what a writer does for a living. I thought my father just took the train to New York every morning before I was awake and came back in time for dinner. I was aware that he knew some famous people in radio and television, but he was not famous himself. I didn't have a clue what he did.
My father made his living by the only thing he knew how to do, which was putting words on paper. He was blunt, outspoken, and opinionated. He believes in thought, the written word, and that a person should stand for something more than his own good. His gruffness hides sentimentality. He clings to life and the people he loves like that old stuff in his garage.
As a writer, and as a man, he thinks he can create his own world. He doesn't care much for reading, except the New York Times.
If your parents live long enough, you get to know them more as people than parents. I have come to know my father's failings, and boy, has he got some. Sometimes he carried his principles to the extreme, and he did not always live by his own rules. But also I appreciate even more that he has stood for something all his life when so many people have not, and that while he became rich and famous, it could just as easily have gone the other way and he would not have done anything differently.
I learned that a writer lives by his words.
"Introducting Andy Rooney"
To begin with, here are some clues to my character. It seems only fair that if you're going to read what I write, I ought to tell you how I stand:
-I prefer sitting but when I stand, I stand in size 8½ EEE shoes. There have been periods in my life when wide feet were my most distinguishing
-When it comes to politics, I don't know whether I'm a Democrat or a Republican. When I was young I was under the mistaken impression that all Democrats were Catholic and all Republicans were Protestant. This turns out to be untrue, of course, and I've never decided which I am. Those of us who don't have a party affiliation ought to be able to register under the heading "Confused."
-I like cold better than hot, rice better than potatoes, football better than baseball, Coke better than Pepsi. I've been to Moscow three times and don't like that at all.
-This morning the scale balanced at 203 pounds. I'm 5'9". My mother always called me "sturdy" and said I have big bones. A little fat is what I am.
-I have an American Express card but often leave home without it and pay cash.
-The following are among the famous people I have met: Richard Nixon, George McGovern, Arthur Godfrey, Frank Gifford, Barry Goldwater, Art Buchwald, Jimmy Stewart and Carol Burnett. I have never met Teddy Kennedy although I've seen a lot of pictures of him.
-I have been arrested for speeding.
-I speak French, but Frenchmen always pretend they don't understand what I'm saying.
-It is my opinion that prejudice saves us all a great deal of time. I have a great many well-founded prejudices, and I have no intention of giving up any of them except for very good reasons. I don't like turnips and I don't like liver. Call it prejudice if you wish, but I have no intention of ever trying either again just to make sure I don't like them. I am sure.
-I don't like anything loud.
-Fiction doesn't interest me at all. I haven't read a novel since Lorna Doone. I meant to read Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea when it came out, but I didn't. Fiction takes too long for the ideas contained in it. I'm not interested in being diverted from my own life.
-Good ideas are overrated. It makes more difference how a writer handles an idea than what the idea was in the first place. The world is filled with people with good ideas and very short of people who can even rake a leaf. I'm tired of good ideas.
-When I write, I use an Underwood #5 made in 1920. Someone gave me an electric typewriter, but there's no use pretending you can use
machinery that thinks faster than you do. An electric typewriter is ready to go before I have anything to say.
-I know a lot about wood, ice cream, the English language and Harry Reasoner. In other areas I have some serious gaps.
-Writers don't often say anything that readers don't already know, unless it's a news story. A writer's greatest pleasure is revealing to people things they knew but did not know they knew. Or did not realize everyone else knew, too. This produces a warm sense of fellow feeling and is the best a writer can do.
-There's nothing mystical or magic about being a writer. A writer is just a person who writes something. There are almost no people who are not dentists who can fix teeth, but there are a lot of people who aren't professional writers who write very well. This is one of the reasons why being a writer is tougher than being a dentist.
-I admire people who don't care what anyone else thinks about what they do, but I'm not one of them. I care what people think and would not want you to know how much I hope you like what I write.
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