I have posted a few excerpts from this book but they in no way are truly representative of the wide range of people that Leo Rosten wrote about. From dime-a-dance girls to I AM worshippers ("Arcturus, we greet thee!"), Groucho Marx to Leonardo, there is no end to the sorts of interesting personalities which fascinated Rosten enough to chronicle.
My personal favorites were both soldiers. Private Coby Clay could not be coerced to make his bed while in the Army because that was something that wasn't fitting for a grown man to do. Your mother should do it for you was his reasoning. Harry Miller's story is told first from the point of view of a small Japanese boy, encountering for the first time an American "warrior" for the first time. The soldier encouraged him to perfect his English and go to America, which became a goal that changed the boy's life. When Miller is tracked down by Rosten for his point of view it is simple and touching and quite perfectly American.
Much thanks to The Anchoress for recommending this.
This is #10 of books read in 2006.
The author of SC&A was kind enough to send me this link to wonderful article about Leo Rosten. Well worth reading, I am including this snippet because it tickles me.
Although it was also Rosten’s habit to ignore reviews, he was so touched by [Evelyn] Waugh’s interest in a work so foreign to everything that Waugh himself had written, that he wrote to thank him and invite Waugh and his wife to have tea with the Rostens in the flat they had taken temporarily in London. “I got back a postcard,” Rosten recently told this reporter. “The postcard read: ’From E.W. to L.R.: Alas, impossible. E.W.”’ I thought for a long time how one should answer so economical a communication. What I finally sent back to the man I consider one of the greatest writers of our time read like this: ’From L. R. to E. W. Quite. L. R.”’