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The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer

The Tender Bar (original 2005; edition 2006)

by J. R. Moehringer

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2,379903,934 (3.86)74
Title:The Tender Bar
Authors:J. R. Moehringer
Info:Hyperion (2006), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library, To read

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The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer (2005)


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Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
Excerpts from my original GR review (Dec 2010):
- Moehringer effectively tells this story, his story, of a childhood and young adulthood that never has a firm anchor, and one in which any source of emotional empathy, even if found at a bar, is worth holding onto.
- His early life is a mess. He and his overburdened mom live in her parents' ragtag old house in Manhasset, just across the sound from NYC. His only contact with his faceless father is his baritone dj's voice on a city radio station. JR's mom does her best, but they can't quite break away from the homestead, replete with numerous cousins, a cantankerous and distant grandpa and Uncle Charlie, bartender at the joint just up the street. JR, bereft of a father and in need of some mentoring, is introduced slowly to Dickens (later Publicans) Bar by Uncle Charlie, a protective, but often drunken, presence. And so it evolves..
- He and his mom move to Arizona, partly to escape the family dynamics in Manhasset, though every summer break JR comes back to stay at grandpa's, while misconceived visits with his father fail to form any bond. In Arizona he lucks into a bookstore job, meeting two unlikely sages, helping prompt his desire to attend college - perhaps Yale? He relates to us his first love encounter, comedy and all, which cringingly takes place while his mom recovers from a bad accident across town.
- JR always has a welcoming cheer upon his visits to Publicans, even before he can imbibe with the regulars, all of whom carry nicknames assigned by Steve, the much maligned bar owner. Some of them carry burdens, some are down on their luck, but all have a home til closing time. Upon reaching legal age, JR is quickly initiated into the mix. Does he get into Yale? Does he survive the bar? You'll have to read the book. But bottom line: I recommend it. Engaging, very salty, touching, worth the effort. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Nov 30, 2018 |
I really wanted to like this memoir, but for some reason I never fully trusted the author. I'm not sure why. The story of his life is interesting, however he never created that "pact" between reader and author that is necessary for great nonfiction. I also think that there were areas he really rushes. ( )
  SarinaLeigh | Apr 21, 2017 |
This episodic memoir of a boy becoming a man in the 70s and 80s, centered on his hometown bar and its characters, is deeply confessional and almost always engaging. It has humor, it has heartbreak--probably more of the latter--and it has a tremendous amount of truth in it as the young writer struggles to find his way in life. At times, it lags, and midway through, it lacks the momentum to keep the reader turning pages into the night, but as the author begins to realize and address his shortcomings, the pace picks up and the book comes to a memorable--and sad--conclusion with an epilogue that takes place right after 911. In addition to his relationships with the men at the bar, his relationship with his mother is well described, and the epiphany he comes to near the book's conclusion is unforgettable. His relationship with his troubled father--both at a distance and later, occasionally, in person--is also fascinating. All in all, this a memoir unlike any other I have read. Like the best such books, it makes us reflect upon our own relationships. ( )
  datrappert | Oct 22, 2016 |
A true tale of the underdog, this briskly paced memoir charts the rites of passage of JR Moehringer with a mix of humor and pathos. The first half of the book stands out the most in its uniqueness with its focus on the author's dysfunctional family. Moehringer deftly captures his feelings at that young age and his growing into the world around him as he learned about family and begins his hero-worship of the bar life. Its an odd quirk of the book that his actual growth as a writer is left unchronicled for the most part. For a book about a writer realizing a dream to join the New York Times, there is very little about the 'writer's life'. The book just casually mentions he wrote for Yale's student paper, but nothing about that experience is shared. Likewise gaining entry into Yale is no mean feat, and yet the book makes it seem almost like a lucky fluke, which is hard to believe. Yet reading the book, you realize how talented he is as a writer and you know there is more to tell about all this.

Some of the standout sections of the book for me were his stint at the strip mall bookstore and the two (gay?) men who ran it and his retail experience at Lord and Taylor. The description of how they still operated the store in turn of the century fashion I found hilarious. Not being a drinker, the segments in the bar with its alcoholic patrons were less amusing and since this book is about his love for the bar life, I guess I may not be the intended audience here. Nonetheless the pace of the story is quite brisk and there's enough humor and interest to keep hooked even the most ardent Prohibitionist. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
Really enjoyed this book. Well written and quite the life story. Author did a great job reading it also. Highly recommend. ( )
  carolfoisset | Jun 30, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0786888768, Paperback)

"Long before it legally served me, the bar saved me," asserts J.R. Moehringer, and his compelling memoir The Tender Bar is the story of how and why. A Pulitzer-Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, Moehringer grew up fatherless in pub-heavy Manhasset, New York, in a ramshackle house crammed with cousins and ruled by an eccentric, unkind grandfather. Desperate for a paternal figure, he turns first to his father, a DJ whom he can only access via the radio (Moehringer calls him The Voice and pictures him as "talking smoke"). When The Voice suddenly disappears from the airwaves, Moehringer turns to his hairless Uncle Charlie, and subsequently, Uncle Charlie's place of employment--a bar called Dickens that soon takes center stage. While Moehringer may occasionally resort to an overwrought metaphor (the footsteps of his family sound like "storm troopers on stilts"), his writing moves at a quick clip and his tale of a dysfunctional but tightly knit community is warmly told. "While I fear that we're drawn to what abandons us, and to what seems most likely to abandon us, in the end I believe we're defined by what embraces us," Moehringer says, and his story makes us believe it. --Brangien Davis

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In a memoir of growing up with a single mother, the author describes how he received valuable life lessons and friendship from an assortment of characters at the neighborhood bar, who provided him with a kind of fatherhood by committee.

(summary from another edition)

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