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McSorley's Wonderful Saloon

by Joseph Mitchell

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1873146,509 (4.48)7
Most of the stories in McSorley's Wonderful Saloon are about the low life in New York City. Mitchell presents an admiring description of the eccentricities of the owners and customers of McSorley's, one of the oldest and most independent saloons in the city.
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Eventual journalist for the New Yorker who came to the city at the onset of the Great Depression catalogs his encounters (often numerous) with characters from gypsies, indians, and bearded ladies to bums, detectives and politicians that make up the always interesting New York of another era. His portraits really give insight into just how diverse the backgrounds and lives of New Yorkers are. The collection ends with depictions of his townsfolk when growing up in the swamplands of North Carolina. I want more. ( )
  dandelionroots | Mar 15, 2014 |
Up in the Old Hotel is the complete collection of Joseph Mitchell's New Yorker journalism and includes McSorley's Wonderful Saloon, Old Mr. Flood, The Bottom of the Harbour and Joe Gould's Secret.

I had to return Up in the Old Hotel to the library before completing the other books, so - for now - can only review McSorley's Wonderful Saloon.

Each of the articles by Joseph Mitchell contained in this book is wonderful: beautifully written, and chronicling the mavericks, the marginal, the unusual and the idiosyncratic from the New York City of the 1930s and 1940s.

Each story lovingly brings to life some extraordinary characters. I will never forget Joe Gould, aka Professor Sea Gull, who was writing "The Oral History" that was already 11 times the length of the Bible; or Lady Olga the bearded lady who had appeared in "Freaks"; or Commodore Dutch; or the King of the Gypsies; or Mazie P. Gordon who presided for 21 years over the ticket cage of the Venice Theatre. Really, this stuff is solid gold.

Next time I visit New York I shall visit as many of the places detailed in this book as I can, if only to gaze wistfully at the spot with the vivid recollections of Joseph Mitchell's wonderful articles to imbue each location with a special and magical significance.

I will be returning to Up in the Old Hotel to read the rest of these wonderful articles - I recommend you do the same. ( )
  nigeyb | Jan 28, 2014 |
I wanted to find a copy of a collection of short stories from the New Yorker about New York. It’s an older book, but it’s not out of print. Nevertheless, I couldn’t find it at any of the bookstores I tried while I was in New York.

Instead, a kindly bookseller directed me to this book. It turned out to be exactly the type of book I was seeking. It’s a collection of pieces that Joseph Mitchell wrote about odd New Yorkers he ran across in his work as a journalist during the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties. It is actually a book within a book, in a recently published collection of out-of-print books by Mitchell, titled Up in the Old Hotel.

I was fascinated by a little story that I discovered about Mitchell that I ran across while researching his life further. Mitchell interviewed a down-and-out fellow back in the thirties who claimed to be writing an enormous book, compiled in many volumes, about New York that consisted solely of conversations the fellow had had with people he met. A number of literary figures befriended this fellow over the years. Many years later, in the sixties, after the fellow passed away, Mitchell searched for the volumes of the book and he was dismayed to discover that the book was a figment of the fellow’s mind, that nothing had ever been written. After writing this piece, Mitchell never wrote another word for publication, though he went into work every day for many years. ( )
  debnance | Jul 30, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph Mitchellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Trillin, CalvinForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Most of the stories in McSorley's Wonderful Saloon are about the low life in New York City. Mitchell presents an admiring description of the eccentricities of the owners and customers of McSorley's, one of the oldest and most independent saloons in the city.

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