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ANDY ROONEY has done a lot for this country's neck specialists. His humor often addresses mundane subjects, the sort that leave his audience nodding in agreement. "Yes, that's happened to me," or "I never thought anyone else felt that way, too." But unlike last year's a A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney, his new And More By Andy Rooney leaves one with more than just a stiff neck.
Collected from Rooney's contributions to the television show 60 Minutes. A Few Minutes proves that spoken word doesn't always transfer well to the written page. And More, however, collects more than a hundred of the humorist's syndicated columns and thus avoids the inherent limitations imposed by A Few Minutes. Without Rooney's on-air perplexed persona and throaty voice, those essays too often seemed-pointless and dull--as might a written transcript of Jimmy Stewart's Tonight Show anecdotes.
Indeed, though And More ultimately succeeds, it remains an unbalanced collection, at once offering Rooney as both high-brow humorist and purveyor of driveling banalities. Like his television pieces, many of Rooney's columns can't be taken more than a few minutes at a time. There's a limit to how many little mysteries of daily life one can absorb in a sitting or two. Essays entitled "Glue," "Hangers," and "Pennies" lose some of their off beat charm when they follow the likes of "Bathtubs." "The Refrigerator," and "Donuts."
The collection reveals Rooney's reliance upon certain themes that soon lose their freshness. "I've got to throw out some clothes," one essay begins, and throughout the book. Rooney's sartorial habits receive much attention. "Seek and thou shall find," he writes adding later. "Not in the bottom drawer of my dresser you won't find." Other essays describe his "unmatched socks," "seventeen shirts," and "worn shoelaces," "Hangers" include this piece of advice.
The best way to use [closet hooks]... is by starting with the lighter items first. Several short sleeved sport shirts make a good base. It is much easier to hang a pair of corduroy work pants over two sport shirts than it would be to hang one sport shirt over two pairs of corduroy pants.
One may stop nodding in agreement and just nod off completely instead.
Several essays aren't essays at all but rather lists like "Some Notes. "Prejudices," and "Rules of Life," a rather ambitiously titled examination that offers maxims like. "The best things in life are not free, they're expensive."
BUT, AND MORE also offers Rooney at his best. He presents prosaic subjects not only for their own sake--"where did [Manhattan's] Fourth Avenue go?"--but also because they serve as a foundation on which he constructs amusing and developed discussions. He hates weathermen, as he describes their typical broadcast. "There's ice on the roads today and many of the roads are slippery, listeners, so please drive carefully,'" Rooney wonders. "Does he think we're idiots? Does he think we don't know ice is slippery'" Horoscopes receive a similar treatment. "Cancer: This is a good time for those of you who are rich and happy, but a poor time for those of you born under this sign who are poor and unhappy."
More important, And More presents Rooney not only as an aggravated observer but also as one who appreciates life's small pleasures. Thankfully, he gradually begins to address things that, while they may go unnoticed as glue, remain more important, interesting, and enchanting than cost hangers.
Essays like "Hot Weather" underscore Rooney's narrative skill and ability to charm. When he served in the army. Rooney couldn't sleep because of the unbearable summer heat. Late one night, he crawled undetected under the barracks until he reached the base's post exchange, where he found discarded cakes of ice.
It took me ten minutes to get back to the barracks and my friends were glad to see me. As a matter of fact. I do not recall a time in all my life when I was so great a hero to so many people. We broke the ice into pieces, filled our canteen cups and then added water. For more than an hour, ten of us sat silently on our bunks in the sweltering heat, drinking that beautiful ice water.
"Hot Weather" ends with an observation concerning Americans' reliance upon air conditioners, but it doesn't seem pointless because Rooney first establishes an engrossing frame of reference.
Rooney writes movingly as well. His simply entitled "Mother" begins. "My mother died today. "Like others collected in the book, this essay includes carefully selected and seemingly unimportant details. "She was girl's high jump champion of Ballston spa in 1902". But his observations and attention to the unobserved further, rather than muddle, his conclusion. "There is no time for each of us to sweep for the hole world," he writes. "We each sweep for our own."
Of course there's no time to laugh at the whole world either. And Rooney's talents, revealed in much of And More, suggest that he should be more selective and avoid commenting on the mundane just for its off beat and only superficially humorous qualities.
The best of And More possesses an "It's a Wonderful Life" charm identifiable enough to provoke a reader's nodding appreciation. But it Rooney truly believes that [although] I am not sick or dying... right now... I'm determined to remind myself how good
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