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Saint Mazie: A Novel by Jami Attenberg

Saint Mazie: A Novel (2015)

by Jami Attenberg

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2882339,063 (3.76)13
  1. 00
    Their Finest Hour And A Half by Lissa Evans (charl08)
    charl08: Quality 20c historical fiction with humour and strong women characters.

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It’s always a bit of a crapshoot when I purchase a book at the airport. This one jumped out at me because I lived in NYC for seven years, and because I find the 20s and 30s fascinating.

The book is based on the real-life Mazie Gordon, although it isn’t an actual biography. It’s fiction, a collection ostensibly based on Ms. Gordon’s journal. The author Jami Attenberg employs an interesting method to tell the story: the reader is the ‘author’, to a degree. We read Mazie’s diary entries, but we also read interviews that the author conducts to try to learn more about Mazie. It jumps around in time in that the interviews take place in the present and are interspersed, but the diary entries themselves follow a linear path.

Mazie never married. She worked her whole life in the ticket booth of a theater on the Lower East Side, and due to the money she made, she was able to offer money to those who were living on the street due to the great depression. She died in 1964; you can read her obituary here. http://www.nytimes.com/1964/06/11/bowery-mourns-mazie-phillips.html?_r=0

I think it’s a fine book. I wouldn’t say it’s a must read, and it’s not interesting enough for me to read it non-stop; I read about 1/3 then just put it down for a couple weeks. I only picked it up again because I rarely give up on a book. And I was mildly pleased with the ending. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
It’s the Jazz Age, but for every person who spends the night reveling at a speakeasy, many more spend their waking hours working but barely surviving. Prohibition and the Great Depression bring additional problems and heartache. Through it all, the brave and hardy struggle on, but in New York, in the Bowery, one woman will eventually emerge as the soul of city. Mazie Phillips, rescued by her older sister from a weary and brow-beaten mother and a cruel and despicable father, will herself become a rescuer for the homeless men who roam the streets. In this work of historical fiction, Mazie seems like an unlikely savior. She loves to party, drinks to excess, looks for love in all the wrong places, and has no qualms about speaking her mind. But she is generous to a fault, looks after her own, and, and in time, comes to realize that all humanity is her own. A fascinating read about a remarkable woman. ( )
  Maydacat | Jun 11, 2017 |
  activelearning | Nov 27, 2016 |
Meet Mazie Phillips: big-hearted and bawdy, she's the truth-telling proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater. It's the Jazz Age, with romance and booze aplenty--even when Prohibition kicks in--and Mazie never turns down a night on the town. But her high spirits mask a childhood rooted in poverty, and her diary, always close at hand, holds her dearest secrets.

When the Great Depression hits, Mazie's life is on the brink of transformation. Addicts and bums roam the Bowery; homelessness is rampant. If Mazie won't help them, then who? When she opens the doors of The Venice to those in need, this ticket taking, fun-time girl becomes the beating heart of the Lower East Side, and in defining one neighborhood helps define the city.

Then, more than ninety years after Mazie began her diary, it's discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips, really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life.

Inspired by the life of a woman who was profiled in Joseph Mitchell's classic Up in the Old Hotel, SAINT MAZIE is infused with Jami Attenberg's signature wit, bravery, and heart. Mazie's rise to "sainthood"--and her irrepressible spirit--is unforgettable. ( )
  cjordan916 | Jul 31, 2016 |
Unusual concept - taking a real character from another writer's story and creating a fictional character from the original. But anyone with the monicker "Queen of the Bowery" would be an interesting study in any context. Mazie's sisters, lover, and Sister Tee, her best friend who's a nun, are almost as compelling as Mazie herself. She spends her days, during the Depression and WW II, as the cashier at the Venice Movie Theatre and her nights aiding the indigent men of the streets. As Mazie and her family move through the city, each neighborhood is described in depth through Mazie's cynical yet empathetic eyes. Especially stimulating is her blissful solo commute (not approved of for women on the time) on the opening of the subway line from Coney Island to Manhattan.

As personal and historical tales of the eras and the locales go, this would be one of the best. ( )
1 vote froxgirl | Apr 3, 2016 |
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Fannie brought one of her fancy friends down to the theater last night.
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