R.I.P. Andy Rooney

I hate it when I check the news in the morning only to discover that someone I admire has passed away. It wasn’t like it was completely unexpected with Andy Rooney. He was 92 years old. The report that I read said he died of complications following minor surgery.

Most people I know think of Andy Rooney as a curmudgeonly TV personality who, for three minutes every Sunday, offered his opinion on all manner of things, big and small. But Rooney hated the fact that he was a celebrity. He always said he was a writer and that is how I see him. Over the years, I’ve read 5 of Andy Rooney’s books, enjoying them all.

The first book that I read of his in December 1999 was Sincerely, Andy Rooney, his collection of letters he’d written over the years. A few years later, I read his autobiographical book about World War II, My War, which I thought was particularly good. In late 2002 I read Common Nonsense and three years later read his collection of essays from 60 Minutes, Years of Minutes. The last book I read by Andy Rooney was his 2006 book, Out of My Mind. I purchased, but haven’t yet gotten around to reading his book, Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wit and Wisdom.

Two things came across clearly in each of these books. First was Rooney’s ability to observer the obvious and see beyond what others might see. Second, of course, was his almost dead-pan humor. Reading these books was an exercise in controlling my laughter, while at the same time wondering to myself why I had never considered some of the obvious questions Rooney was asking.

He had his share of controversy, which he tackled head on. I might not agree with every opinion Rooney expressed over the years but I think that he was generally on the right track, asking the right questions, some of them, despite being masked by his sense of humor, difficult to face.

Rooney also had tenuous connections to the science fiction world. He and he wife were friends with Isaac and Janet Asimov.

Andy Rooney is one of those characters for which there won’t be a replacement. We might hear people say, “Oh he’s another Andy Rooney,” but the truth is there will never be another Andy Rooney. More than anything else, Rooney attempted to teach a very wide audience how to think critically, using everyday examples. He taught us that it was okay to question things, that nothing should be taken for granted.

2 thoughts on “R.I.P. Andy Rooney

  1. Rooney also had tenuous connections to the science fiction world. He and he wife were friends with Isaac and Janet Asimov.

    That, I didn’t know. But given their ages, and Isaac and Andy’s origins and experiences, it is not entirely surprising either.

  2. Paul, in his memoir, I. Asimov, Isaac writes briefly: “At Rensselaerville I was lucky enough to become acquainted with the inimitable Andy Rooney, who has a summer house there.”

    It took me longer to find Rooney’s reference to Isaac and Janet. It’s in a book that I read once, back in 1999 and then never looked at again. But as I was waiting for a coworker to finish some tests, I started skimming through the book. 285 pages later, I found it. Rooney, in a letter to Al Balk, who was also a friend of the Asimov’s (recalling this from his original autobiographies), wrote: “We had dinner with Isaac and Janet Asimov at our home in Renselaerville a few weeks ago. His brain hasn’t deteriorated but his body isn’t what it was–and it was never much. Janet is a charming hypochondriac with a medical education which is the worst kind.” The letter is not dated. Now if I had this book in e-book format instead of paper, it would have taken me all of two seconds to find this reference. Chalk up another mark in the e-book column.

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