McSorley's Wonderful Saloon

McSorley's Wonderful Saloon

by Joseph Mitchell, Calvin Trillin
     
 


“Mitchell’s collection of portraits is the exact opposite of the books that choose an important subject, but are hastily written and have nothing much to say. These books, which form the bulk of current writing, always make you feel as if you had paid for looking into the wrong end of a telescope. Mitchell, on the other hand, likes to start with an…  See more details below

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“Mitchell’s collection of portraits is the exact opposite of the books that choose an important subject, but are hastily written and have nothing much to say. These books, which form the bulk of current writing, always make you feel as if you had paid for looking into the wrong end of a telescope. Mitchell, on the other hand, likes to start with an unimportant hero, but he collects all the facts about him, arranges them to give the desired effects, and usually ends by describing the customs of a whole community. Commodore Dutch, the subject of one portrait, ‘is a brassy little man who has made a living for the last forty years by giving an annual ball for the benefit of himself.’ Mitchell doesn’t try to present him as anything more than a barroom scrounger; but in telling the story of his career, he also gives a picture of New York sporting life since the days of Big Tim Sullivan. The story called ‘King of the Gypsies’ is even better. It sets out to describe Cockeye Johnny Nikanov, the spokesman or king of thirty-eight gypsy families, but it soon becomes a Gibbon’s decline and fall of the American gypsies; and it ends with an apocalyptic vision that is not only comic but also, in its proper context, more imaginative than anything to be found in recent novels.
“Reading some of his portraits a second time, you catch an emotion beneath them that curiously resembles Dickens’: a continual wonder at the sights and sounds of a big city, a continual devouring interest in all the strange people who live there, a continual impulse to burst into praise of kind hearts and good food and down with hypocrisy.”—Malcolm Cowley, The New Republic

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Mitchell was a cherished columnist for the now-defunct New York World-Telegram in the 1930s. He wrote primarily about the variety of street characters who seemed to be abundant in the great metropolis, and his columns read like Weegee photos transformed into words. These two volumes collect dozens of those portraits: My Ears Are Bent covers a variety of subjects, while McSorley's, which features a new foreword by Calvin Trillin, is a gallery of the customers at the famous Bowery watering hole. Great pieces of Americana. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Few magazines do personality sketches quite like , and Mitchell (who wrote for the magazine from the 1930s until his death in 1996) was one of the masters. Originally published in 1992, this collection of portraits reveals New York characters and their communities<-->in all their glory and tarnish<-- >like Cockeye Johnny Nikanov, "the king of the Gypsies," and Mazie Gordon, a ticket-taker for two decades at the Bowery's Venice Theatre. (The 2000 film was based on Mitchell's friendship with Gould, a bar habitu<'e> working on an Oral History of the World that would record 20,000 conversations he'd overheard.) With a foreword by Calvin Trillin, who relates his own love affair with Mitchell's prose. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375421020
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/01/2001
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.41(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.31(d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Mitchell came to New York City on October 25, 1929 (the day after the stock-market crash), from a small farming town called Fairmont, in the swamp country of southeastern North Carolina. He was twenty-one years old and looking for a job as a newspaper reporter. He eventually managed to find work as an apprentice crime reporter at Police Headquarters for The World. He was a reporter and feature writer—for The World, The Herald Tribune, and The World-Telegram—for eight years, and then went to The New Yorker, where he remained until his death, on May 24, 1996, at the age of eighty-seven.

Aside from writing, Mr. Mitchell’s interests included the waterfront of New York City, commercial fishing, gypsies, Southern agriculture, Irish literature, and the architecture of New York City. He served several terms on the board of directors of the Gypsy Lore Society, an international organization of students of gypsy life and the gypsy language, which was founded in England in 1888. Bajour, a musical comedy based on stories about gypsies by Mitchell, ran for 232 performances on Broadway in 1964-65. He was one of the founders of the South Street Seaport Museum and one of the original members of the Friends of Cast-Iron Architecture. For five years he was also one of the Commissioners of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Mr. Mitchell was married to the photographer Therese Mitchell, who died in 1980; they had two daughters, Nora Sanborn and Elizabeth Mitchell.

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