Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America

Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America

by Peter Quinn
     
 

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In this stunning work chronicling the author’s exploration of his own past—and the lives of many hundreds of thousands of nameless immigrants who struggled alongside his own ancestors—Peter Quinn paints a brilliant new portrait of the Irish-American men a
In Quinn’s hands, the Irish stereotype of “Paddy” gives way to an image of

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Overview

In this stunning work chronicling the author’s exploration of his own past—and the lives of many hundreds of thousands of nameless immigrants who struggled alongside his own ancestors—Peter Quinn paints a brilliant new portrait of the Irish-American men a
In Quinn’s hands, the Irish stereotype of “Paddy” gives way to an image of “Jimmy”—an archetypal Irish-American (a composite of Jimmy Cagney and Jimmy Walker) who comes to life as a fast-talking, tough-yet-refined urban American redefining American politics, street culture, religion, and imagination. From their immigration into America to the politics of the modern day, Quinn's vibrant prose weaves together the story of a people that has made an immeasurable contribution to American history and culture.

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
Like African Americans, Irish Americans have made contributions of incalculable dimensions to American society and culture. They changed and enriched the language, gave us our greatest playwright (Eugene O'Neill), some of our finest writers (Flannery O'Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice McDermott, William Kennedy) and our greatest movie director, John Ford, one of the "master interpreters of the [American] dream." Now they have given us, in this fine book, a way to help us understand them, and thus ourselves.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Quinn, author of the acclaimed The Banished Children of Eve, has combined 22 (some never before published) essays in this entertaining and informative volume. The "Jimmy" in the title is actual plural: James Cagney, the swaggering Irish-American actor, and James J. Walker, the Jazz Age mayor of New York who was born with a song in his heart and larceny in his soul. The two Jimmys came to symbolize the aspirations of the Irish-Catholic American community as it fought to climb socially and economically in America. Quinn has a firm grip on history as he traces the Irish in New York back to before the famine. In a chapter named "City of God, City of Man," Quinn examines the parallel lives of Edgar Allan Poe and Archbishop "Dagger John" Hughes, both of whom came to New York City in the 1830s. The colorful Hughes, the man who built St. Patrick's Cathedral and the supporting Catholic system of hospitals, schools and orphanages, comes across as a no-nonsense man of action with the clout and savvy-and ruthlessness-reminiscent of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. There are portraits of the Irish as politician, cop, priest, teacher, writer. In this deft examination of America's Irish, Quinn adds color and nostalgia with his tales of growing up and working in the Bronx of another time. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Uneven collection of essays, articles, reviews and speeches on the history and identity of the Irish in America. Speechwriter turned historical novelist Quinn (Hour of the Cat, 2005, etc.) offers much here to delight, annoy and perhaps even offend. Almost every piece demonstrates his substantial knowledge of history and his wide reading. He's particularly well informed about the potato famine, whose spectral presence haunts the text. (In two places, the author notes some similarities to the Holocaust.) Many died in Ireland; many more immigrated to the United States, where, as the author observes, they were not greeted with joy. In one of his strongest essays, "Closets Full of Bones," Quinn notes the similarity of the brutal hostility and discrimination the Irish faced to today's hysterical reactions to new waves of immigrants. The reason our politicians, public and media pundits are so exercised is simple, he writes: "They don't know history." Another fine piece, "The Bronx Is Burning," blends the author's personal experiences as a court officer in the Bronx's Landlord and Tenant Court with some insightful comments about immigration, poverty and hopelessness. Graceful writing and a seamless blending of historical and personal material distinguish the book throughout, though some of the early entries land in unsurprising, even sentimental places. "Faith and Imagination," a section containing five meditations on the Irish and the Roman Catholic church, may annoy Protestants and non-Christians: Quinn is a proud Catholic and expresses not the slightest doubt about the divinity of Jesus or the existence of hell. Well written and researched, showcasing the author's pride in his Irish Catholicheritage.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590200230
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
02/05/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
963,208
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Peter Quinn is the author of Hour of the Cat, The Man Who Never Returned, Looking for Jimmy, and The Banished Children of Eve, all available from Overlook.

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