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Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell
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Up in the Old Hotel

by Joseph Mitchell

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8541510,501 (4.46)47
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I've read this book many times over. It just never gets old. Mitchell's nonfiction reads like good fiction, and his profiles of the bums, outcasts, and miscreants of New York are poignant and heartbreaking and sometimes exalting. Ironically, his attempts at fiction fall short of his profiles, but they still retain the same graveyard humor. This is one book not to be missed. ( )
  stacy_chambers | Aug 22, 2013 |
Savoring these essays a bit at a time.
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
this is a series of mostly non-fiction pieces from the New Yorker describing people. Who: The rivermen in New Jersey, the people of Mcsorly's Wonderful saloon, the people of Fulton fish market, fishermen who supply the market, people down and out., the people who used to get oyster out of New York harbour. It is absolutely wonderful. ( )
  pnorman4345 | Jan 28, 2013 |
This is a wonderful and readable collection of Mitchell's essays, in which he lovingly describes haunts like the Fulton Fish Market and McSorley's, one of the last bars in America to admit women, and profiles various folk and colorful denizens of New York City's nether regions, most famously, Joe Gould, the bohemian character with whom he is inevitably and eternally linked. Mitchell demonstrates great skill as a writer by letting his subjects seemingly speak for themselves, all the while rendering their words in compulsively readable fashion. This works best with Joe Gould who was a fountain of words anyway. The story tells of Gould, a Harvard grad, subsisting on practically no money (one of his tricks is to make a soup out of the ketchup in restaurants), with a propensity for making a spectacle of himself as he starts flapping his arms and declaiming poetry in the "language" of sea gulls. It shows how he works on his nine million word Oral History of Our Time. Within the pages of hundreds of composition books, of the kind we used to use in school, Gould claimed to be writing a history of the world in the form of the conversations of ordinary people as he heard them speaking every day ""What people say is history." (Reminds me of Studs Terkel). It was this idea that beguiled Mitchell and his readers, made Gould into a minor celebrity, and ultimately formed a tragicomic link to Mitchell's own career. ( )
  jwhenderson | Nov 6, 2012 |
This edition is a collection of four books written by Joseph Mitchell, late essayist for the New Yorker. The essays contained therein cover the period from the late 1930's to the early 1950's. The essays, which amount to a common history of life in New York, are noteworthy for three reasons.

First, Mitchell was a keen observer of everyday life. Rather than painting scenic vistas of New York living, he gives us the fine details that make the scenic vista possible. His characters are every-day people, living every-day lives in an every-day environment, and he instills in them a dignity a casual observer would overlook.

Second, Mitchell has a profound respect for the tradition of oral history. His characters have something to say about their world, and Mitchell is careful to capture these observations in their finest details. There is a point, there: we are the sum of what has come before us, and to understand ourselves we need to be mindful of those who are responsible for our being here. Maybe the saddest thing is that the oral history tradition Mitchell highlights is becoming lost to contemporary society.

Finally, Mitchell is a master at presenting his characters. Serious writers couldn't do better than to read Mitchell's work to learn how to develop a fine character sketch, producing not just a character occupying space in the world, but as people who both stand out with their own intrinsic value, and who add the richness to the world around them. ( )
  jpporter | Jul 29, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679746315, Paperback)

Journalist Joseph Mitchell, whose death in in May 1996 at the age of 87 merited a half-page obituary in the New York Times, pioneered a style of journalism while crafting brilliant magazine pieces for the New Yorker from the 1930s to the early 1960s. Up in the Old Hotel, a collection of his best reporting, is a 700-page joy to read.

Mitchell lovingly chronicled the lives of odd New York characters. In the pages of Up In the Old Hotel, the reader passes through places such as McSorley's Old Ale House or the Fulton Fish Market that many observers might have found ordinary. But when experienced through Mitchell's gifted eye, the reader will see that these haunts of old New York possess poetry, beauty, and meaning.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:56 -0400)

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