Thursday, January 19, 2012

Two Writing Titans

Just about everyone who has a blog has Andrew A. Rooney to thank.

Yes, that Andrew A. Rooney. The one who was often caricatured as a cranky old man who griped about absolutely nothing at the end of 60 Minutes. A small fraction of those dismissing Rooney knew that he was a writer long before becoming, reluctantly, a television personality. Of his days as a war correspondent for The Stars and Stripes or his years as a newspaper columnist.

Whereas many of my fellow Gen-Xers were watching MTV and reading Mad Magazine, I was reading Andy Rooney's collections of old columns, and would occasionally envision myself commenting equally breezily on life's big questions as on life's more mundane things, bringing observations to light, and causing millions of people to think, "Yeah! I thought I was the only one to notice that..."

I would often nod my head in agreement with things Andrew A. Rooney (as he preferred to be known) wrote or said, and would shake my head when I would disagree, but such is the case for every pundit, columnist, or blogger. I imagine that many of those who would ridicule Rooney for his weekly segments on things such as cereal boxes would rush to Twitter or Facebook or [ahem] Blogspot to tell the world the great new cheese they sampled the other day at WholeFoods.

I was less familiar with the writings of Christopher Hitchens, but whatever I did happen to read of his wowed me with his command of the English language and what to do with it. Yes, one could agree or disagree with his ideas, but no one could seriously attack him for his prose. In a semi-conscious state from a hospital bed, Hitch was able to come up with far deeper thoughts than most people could on their best days.

Andrew A. Rooney was far older than Christopher Hitchens, but Rooney, like Hitchens, "retired" only out of necessity, not for a want to stop writing. With both, we get the feeling that a great practicer of a faded art was taken from us far too soon.