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Joe Gould's Secret by Joseph Mitchell
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Joe Gould's Secret (1996)

by Joseph Mitchell

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2971257,050 (4.06)9
  1. 00
    The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin (melmore)
    melmore: Joe Gould's (imaginary, non-existent?) secret history of New York has always struck me as a shadow image of Benjamin's sprawling but likewise somewhat-imaginary history of 19th century Paris.
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English (9)  French (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Imagine Hamsun's emaciated artist taking his defiance to Greenwich Village and living hand to mouth for twenty years. No pawning of underwear and top coats here, the intellectual vagrant would require a different angle. He'd have to shuffle, he would need to embrace his humility. Such was what I initially divined to be at the core of Mitchell's book, an outgrowth of piece he wrote on Gould in the New Yorker in 1942. That isn't the case.

An expose lies at the heart of the tale, but the story of Joe Gould is a worthy diversion. Unfortunately a journalistic argot is employed. It feels like outtakes from Preston Sturges bent around the worst of Jimmy Breslin. This is not an illuminating glimpse into the bohemian life, but a sad character story.
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
There are a lot of terms that might once had applied to noted Greenwich Village resident Joe Gould: he might have been called a character, an eccentric, a real personality, a bohemian. For better or worse,the term that would probably most apply to him now is "mentally ill." I'm not sure that this is a bad thing. Whatever his talents were, and Joseph Mitchell makes the case that he was a gifted raconteur, performer, con man and perhaps an interesting -- if disorganized -- thinker, as a twenty-first century reader, it's sort of hard to escape the impression that the guy wasn't all there. "Joe Gould's Secret" is well-written, in that clean crisp, exacting style that people have come to expect from the New Yorker, it but it's entirely possible that your appreciation for this book will depend on how well you deal with individuals like Joe Gould. One person's charming neighborhood personage is another's crazy, shameless, conniving alcoholic freeloader. I can understand that he may have been entertaining to both the artsy types that haunted the Village in those days and the tourists who came to gawk at them, but I finished this with much less fondness for it's subject than I did when I started it. The guy probably couldn't have gotten a quarter out of me.

There are some other reasons to read "Joe Gould's Secret." It describes a place and an era where a lot of people genuinely believed that art was a response to life's injustices and when Communism was still considered a tenable political philosophy among the intelligentsia. Mitchell's descriptions of New York's self-consciously eccentric bohemian population and the Bowery's population of drunks, transients, and assorted ne'er-do-wells will likely strike something of a nostalgic chord with some readers: the book's setting seems at once both quaint and seductive. Famous authors and poets seem to drop in and out of both Mitchell's and Gould's lives on a regular basis. There's also the strange, unsolvable mystery surrounding Mitchell's decades-long writer's block. In a sense, it's downright tempting to think that Gould, who seemed trapped in his own writing and whose graphomania led to very little indeed, may have sparked some unconscious fear or self-doubt in Michell himself that led him to shut up his typewriter forever. One can't know, but at the end of the book, they seem like opposite numbers: the mercurial, logorrheic, almost unpublishable vagrant and the buttoned-up literary figure who went silent shortly after publishing this one. For all of its contradictions, this is one I'd recommend. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Sep 6, 2017 |
Joseph Mitchell's two New Yorker pieces on Joe Gould, "Professor Sea Gull" and "Joe Gould's Secret," with an introduction by William Maxwell. Fascinating profiles of a real honest-to-goodness "character." ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 19, 2017 |
Een apart boek in twee delen. Het eerste is het verhaal van Joe Gould, een bohémien, onaangepast, eigenzinnig. Hij is bezig een soort oral history van de gewone man te schrijven en gebruikt dat plan om geld los te peuteren voor drank. Een journalist tekent zijn verhaal op. In het tweede deel, geschreven na de dood van Joe Gould, blijkt dat die oral history niet is geschreven en alleen bestaat in de gedachten van Joe Gould. Een tragisch figuur en tegelijk bewonderenswaardig hoe hij zich wist staande te houden. Een originele geest. ( )
  elsmvst | Feb 23, 2017 |
Admittedly, I knew nothing of Joe Gould when I decided to read Joe Gould's Secret by Joseph Mitchell, and I intentionally kept away from finding out anything until I read the book. The experience couldn't have been better.
While I don't read much nonfiction, this is one of those books that makes me wonder why. Joe Gould's Secret isn't only stranger than fiction, but it offers real sustenance that sticks with a reader. Joe's story is like no other. During the time when Greenwich Village is filled with all varieties of artists and cool cats, Joe Gould walked and lived among them. An educated man, from an affluent family, he finds importance in the world around him, has no focus on materialism, and is using his life experiences to write an oral history on life.
The story is told in two parts, and true to the title there is a secret that is disclosed in the second part. May I urge you to investigate no further if you are like me and have limited knowledge of Joe Gould? There is a lot of information out there, as well as a film, which makes me a little ashamed that I didn't know of him, but at the same time love that I didn't.
Joe Gould's Secret is one of those books that challenged the way that I think, and left me just a little bit changed, which I believe to be the most meaningful and magical part of literature. ( )
  StephLaymon | Feb 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph Mitchellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cohen, MarceloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janssen, SusanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maxwell, WilliamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schönfeld, EikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steinberg, SaulIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Includes: Professor Sea Gull (orig. in The New Yorker, Dec. 12, 1942) and
Joe Gould's secret (orig. in The New Yorker, Sept. 19 & 26, 1964)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375708049, Paperback)

Now a major motion picture starring Ian Holm, Hope Davis, and Stanley Tucci, who also directs.

Joseph Mitchell was a legendary New Yorker writer and the author of the national bestseller Up in the Old Hotel, in which these two pieces appeared. What Joseph Mitchell wrote about, principally, was New York. In Joe Gould, Mitchell found the perfect subject. And Joe Gould's Secret has become a legendary piece of New York history.

Joe Gould may have been the quintessential Greenwich Village bohemian. In 1916, he left behind patrician roots for a scrappy, hand-to-mouth existence: he wore ragtag clothes, slept in Bowery flophouses, and mooched food, drinks, and money off of friends and strangers. Thus he was able to devote his energies to writing "An Oral History of Our Time," which Gould said would constitute "the informal history of the shirt-sleeved multitude." But when Joe Gould died in 1957, the manuscript could not be found. Where had he hidden it? This is Joe Gould's Secret.

"[Mitchell is] one of our finest journalists."--Dawn Powell, The Washington Post

"What people say is history--Joe Gould was right about that-- and history, when recorded by Mitchell, is literature."--The New Criterion

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:57 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The enduring cult classic by an icon of American journalism Acclaimed journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker Joseph Mitchell tells the story of Joe Gould, (3zsan odd and penniless and unemployable little man who came to this city in 1916 and ducked and dodged and held on as hard as he could for over thirty-five years.(3y sWritten originally as two separate profiles ((3zsProfessor Sea Gull(3y sin 1942 and then (3zsJoe Gould?s Secret(3y stwenty-two years later), the biography captures both Mitchell and Gould at their finest. Over a twenty-year association, as Mitchell learns more about Gould and his epic Oral History?a reputedly nine-million-word collection of philosophizing, wanderings, and hearsay that the supposed Harvard man Gould termed (3zsthe informal history of the shirt-sleeved multitude(3ys?he uncovers a secret that adds even more eccentricities to the already unusual story of the local legend. This bounteous and elusive history, so esteemed that even Pound and Cummings discussed it in letters, would ultimately serve to unlock the (3zslost soul named Joe Gould.(3y sMitchell?s last major work before the writer?s block that left him virtually silent for thirty-two years, Joe Gould?s Secret captures one of American journalism?s ascendant young masters at his peak and serves to mark an artist-subject relationship for the ages. (3zsYou pick someone so close that in fact you are writing about yourself,(3y san aging Mitchell told the Washington Post four years before his death. (3zsTalking to Joe Gould all those years he became me in a way, if you see what I mean.(3y sAnd as the reader comes to understand Gould?s secret, Mitchell?s words become all the more prescient. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Joseph Mitchell including rare images from the author?s estate.… (more)

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