BILL CUNNINGHAM is somewhat of an institution in New England, having been the center of attraction in the Boston sports pages since the early 1920’s, first as a Dartmouth football star and later as the highest paid sports writer in the business. In the last decade Mr. Cunningham has branched out from sports in his columns and has included commentaries on everything that happens to strike his fancy, or displeasure.
Mr. Cunningham’s first full-length book is steeped with the same qualities and some of the same material which have won for him a devoted following among newspaper readers. He is the master of pathos, of humorous anecdotes about his own frailties, of two-fisted patriotism, of decontrolled anger, and of the jargon of the bleachers and the bookmakers. He writes in a lingo all his own. Frequently described as racy and inimitable, his style consists in part of not calling a spade a spade if six other words can be found which convey the same meaning more obliquely. This leads him to speak of God as “a Character prominently mentioned in the Old Testament,” of his wife as “The Pearl of Her Sex,” and of his home as “Millstone-on-the-Neck.”
Indeed, it is not what Mr. Cunningham says, but the way he says it, that has won him fame and fortune. If it were not for the fact that it is written in Cunninghamese, his book would be nothing more than an unrelated collection of personal musings on family life, household pets, Mussolini, cooking outdoors, Frank Sinatra, football games, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, and the trials and tribulations of being a newspaperman. As it is, the book is enlivened by Mr. Cunningham’s talent for saying old things in a new way. To take but one example, he points up what might have appeared to be a commonplace visit to a shipyard by saying, “If you can walk into a wardriving shipyard in such times and not feel the pinleathers lift along your chiropractic declivity, there’s not much United States in you.”
For those who swear by Mr. Cunningham, and their numbers are legion, the book will be as welcome as a backstage visit with the man himself. For others, it will serve as an outstanding example of the slam-bang style of writing which flourishes on the sports pages of American newspapers.
EDGAR L. JONES