Now, Where Were We?

Blount, Roy Jr.

Roy Blount, Jr.'s new book brings to mind the story of the baseball writer who in the 1950s came back to the press box shaking his head after talking to Casey Stengel, the Yankee manager then at...

...But like other humorists who have made their living in print, from George Ade to Robert Benchley to Jean Shepherd in our own day, he seems, if declining length is any clue, to have less interest in writing these days and more in pure entertainment as a professional funny fellow...
...he's more of a cynic gone antic, with occasional intervals of utter battiness, and it's very difficult to devote full attention to anything else while sitting next to him...
...Did Casey tell you who's going to pitch tomorrow...
...He started to," said the writer, "but he got talking about McGraw and the time he managed in Toledo and the Pacific Coast League and God knows what else...
...Higgins writes in his latest, Progress of the Seasons: I do not know quite how to characterize Blount's occupation...
...He does not like to hurtle to the end of things, especially when he finds himself surrounded by an appreciative audience...
...Confirmed for me by a professional...
...It must have taken him close to the end of the regulation nine innings to complete his monologue...
...He refuses their blandishments, and makes the spaghetti...
...NOW, WHERE WERE WE...
...And madcap: James Thurber would often produce a father or grandfather to make a point...
...Monologue...
...while the mind mulls it, the stomach questions it, the "going-to-the-troubleof-cooking-muscles" say "Nahhh ." and his conscience yells, "Raw carrots...
...Roy Blount is the storyteller: the fellow on the next stool over, the pal your wife usually dislikes...
...The usual sobriquet is "humorist," but it's too tame for him...
...On the face of it, in Now, Where Were We?, Blount collects pieces he's written on subjects ranging from dirt-eating to postcards to walking in New York City, touring London, dogs versus cats, the Confederacy, and air travel...
...It is to Blount's credit that all this works harmoniously, although his basic stock here is admittedly thin (and has been getting thinner for some time): most often a single gag garnished and extended for little more than one or two pages, with all sorts of mental garbage and stuff from the attic...
...He was a regular guest on the "Prairie Home Companion" radio show, and some months back gave a one-man show Off-Broadway...
...is a funny writer, the kind who draws readers beyond a magazine's table of contents...
...Blount, who first made his name in sportswriting two decades ago, learned at Casey's knee...
...Blount is a hearty fellow, judging from his pictures, and in apparent constant warfare with his body...
...Blount also recalls sipping a glass of Black Bush, and observes, "the notion that some Irish whiskey is Catholic and some Protestant is an American canard...
...Raw carrots...
...In a piece on the "healthfolk's" advice to listen to your body, Blount listens to his body, a veritable Tower of Babel, as the tastebuds plead for spaghetti "with a whole lot of homemade sauce with hamburger and mushrooms and peppers and onions and Parmesan cheese...
...Roy Blount, Jr./Villard Books/252 pp...
...never to progress but always and inexorably moving on...
...Blount is as likely to bring in Thoreau or Emily Dickinson for a cameo appearance...
...His next book might well be a collection of scripts...
...Along the way, he introduces his reader to recalcitrant coon dogs and assorted relatives, and muses about politics, fried food, the nature of debt, plumbing, segregation, and songwriting...
...He is, he admits, not very eighties...
...The fact that he knows at most three or four of his perhaps fifty or sixty listeners hinders him not at all...
...In one voice, they all decide upon "a nice glass of bourbon with some ice in it," backing it up as a sensual experience: "A glass of bourbon would look good, taste good, and smell good, and the ice would make a nice little clinking sound...
...In a discussion of whiskey, for example, he reflects, "Doesn't it taste good, though, and haven't I had some good times when it was served...
...Brendan McMullan, who presides over the second floor of Brennan's on Stone Street in lower Manhattan, once arbitrated a discussion of the virtues of Jameson's and Bushmill's with "Don't let your politics get in the way of your drinking," a frank dismissal of the politico-religious argument...
...Of course I'd remember even more of them if I'd had less of it," which for my money is right up there with the old saw that the sober man's thoughts turn into the drunk man's words...
...one of his fellows asked...
...And it would make me feel good...
...I think tomorrow's starting pitcher is Christy Mathewson...
...Roy Blount, Jr.'s new book brings to mind the story of the baseball writer who in the 1950s came back to the press box shaking his head after talking to Casey Stengel, the Yankee manager then at the top of his form...
...But let's stay at the ballpark a momentólater in time, and with the man himself...
...He almost always puts together a fine, small gumbo, no matter what the subject, and sometimes, in spite of the subject...
...I'd have far fewer stories to tell today if I'd avoided it...
...If he is at war with his body, he is also in open conflict with the times, and this means everything from filofax mania to taking a line of credit against the equity of his home...
...iring such a stylistic blunderbuss necessarily means he hits some targets...
...Aria...
...17.95 Joe Mysak 48 THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR OCTOBER 1989...
...Political throwaway lines aside, Roy Blount, Jr...
...indeed, it seems to impel him to shift from narrative to aria, his almost caloric Southern accent coagulating like a big warm muddy river choked with catfish in the sun, eddying and swirling, seeming Joe Mysak, The American Spectator's chief saloon correspondent, is the managing editor of the daily Bond Buyer...
...The Boston writer George V. Higgins sat next to Blount in the press box at a 1975 Cincinnati Reds-Boston Red Sox World Series matchup...
...But he also indulges the old whines about Greed in Reagan's America and his "eight years of geriatric space-cadet presidency," all of which plays pretty well with certain kinds of editors, but which is wearing thin with most other people...

Vol. 22 • October 1989 • No. 10


 
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