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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite portraits wonderfully written
There are so many good things I could say about The Bottom of the Harbor. Mitchell's writing style is clean easy to read without lacking in depth and texture. The stories themselves are fascinating and off beat.
But the best part of the book are the characters Mitchell writes about. They come alive through his portrayals and you will find yourself thinking about...
Published on July 9, 2003 by Bob Dickson

versus
10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Instead Buy "Up in the Old Hotel"
All the material here and much, much, much more is included in the excellent Mitchell compilation "Up In The Old Hotel" - buy that in hardcover; you'll thank me in 25 years [or your children will.]

NOTE: Amazon's touting a "savings" from buying 'Hotel' & 'Harbor' jointly!
Twinning Hotel & "My Ears Are Bent" might be a fit, though.
Published on June 15, 2009 by Jorge F. Reynolds


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite portraits wonderfully written, July 9, 2003
By 
Bob Dickson (Valencia, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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There are so many good things I could say about The Bottom of the Harbor. Mitchell's writing style is clean easy to read without lacking in depth and texture. The stories themselves are fascinating and off beat.
But the best part of the book are the characters Mitchell writes about. They come alive through his portrayals and you will find yourself thinking about them, their thoughts, and their ways of life long after you stop reading.
The book contains six separate stories, each about 40 (short) pages long, so you can absorb them at your own pace without losing the thread. Personally, I had a hard time putting the book down.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tops, September 6, 2008
By 
Mindy Aloff (New York City USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bottom of the Harbor (Hardcover)
Joseph Mitchell--The New Yorker fact writer, whose birth, in North Carolina, 100 years ago is being celebrated by the reissue of this 1959 collection--was deeply versed in classical literature and in the fiction of James Joyce, and he loved the populist death art of Posada. He didn't let any of them get in the way of his journalism, though: they fueled his imagination, but he didn't require that they fuel ours, too. Anyone who reads for the first time the six New York waterfront and river stories in "The Bottom of the Harbor" is given everything needed to absorb what Mitchell has to say on every level in the prose, itself. And such beautiful prose it is--full of rhythmic texture and patience, of lists as melodious as scat singing, and of knowledge worn so lightly it can only be felt. Sometimes, Mitchell's writing is so seamless that it doesn't even seem human: it is both very modern and evocatively biblical in that way.
Mitchell was unquenchably curious about everything and everyone connected with the harbor, beginning with the hard-working fishermen and other workers, whom he presents with sympathy and matchless skill. And, yet, the human interest here is only one layer of his marvelous literary constructions. A strong recurring theme is the wasteful degradation of the environment in search of commercial gain. Another is the frailty of any individual life. Yet another is the poetry produced by the artless arrangement of names for fish or for wildflowers. And still another is the magic of stories, and of stories within stories, and of stories within stories within stories--the magic of suspended time. Although some of what Mitchell mourns has actually since improved, such as the ability of the Gowanus Canal to support underwater life, for the most part the New York harbor of 2008 has lost much of what he chronicled elegically 50 or 60 years ago. Even so, Mitchell's world--personal, individual, reflective, informed, invested with considerations of mortality shot through with graveyard wit--remains vital and real and so accessible that it would be dangerous to let high school, much less college students get their hands on the book. It might prompt a tragic optimism in them that it's possible to make a living as journalists by trying to write this way, a possibility as long gone as the once-thriving oyster beds around the shores of Manhattan.
A note about years: the pieces in "The Bottom of the Harbor" are arranged according to their tones and subject matter to make the book a good reading experience, rather than according to the chronology of their first magazine publications. If you look at them from the earliest to the latest, though, you find that the early ones are written in the omniscent third person and then, as the years go on, the voice goes into the first person, increasingly confiding on the page. "Mr. Hunter's Grave," first published in The New Yorker in September 1956, and described on the jacket flap as "widely considered to be the finest single piece of nonfiction to have ever appeared in the pages of The new Yorker," also ends on the darkest note. However, the book concludes with the youngest of the pieces, "The Rivermen," from 1959, whose ending, an apology from one man to another (also, as it happens, named Joe), reads: "'As far as I'm concerned,' he said, 'the purpose of life is to stay alive and to keep on staying alive as long as you possibly can.'" As the essayist and historian Luc Sante writes in his estimable forward to this centennial edition of "The Bottom of the Harbor": "This book of ostensibly journalistic feature stories turns out to hold at its core some of the fundamental questions of existence."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He takes you places, April 25, 2005
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He really does take you places. Places you may have been before, but in a time we'll never know again. As I'm reading, I'm careful to catch every word, afraid of missing out on the world he's revealing to me.

This is the first I've ever read of Mitchell, but he's already one of my favorite authors. Journalism at its finest.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So descriptive, so telling, July 18, 2008
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This review is from: The Bottom of the Harbor (Hardcover)
When Joseph Mitchell died in 1996 at the age of 87, the obituary that appeared in the New York Times, May 25, 1996, called him the "chronicler of the unsung and the unconventional." Mitchell began his career as a writer for The New York Herald Tribune in 1929. His career spanned the 1930s to the 1960s. He joined The New Yorker in 1938, and the pieces he contributed to that magazine have continued to gather momentum, taking on a life of their own. The six essays offered in this collection, a revised edition of The Bottom of the Harbor, were first published between 1944 and 1959.

Mitchell came to New York from rural North Carolina, and quickly found a fascination with life in the city. His essays, a combination of oral history, natural history, and psychological observation, reflect his love for the people and the surroundings of New York, with a special emphasis on fishermen and others involved in life around the harbor.

The first essay in the collection, "Up in the Old Hotel," is a kind of mystery--from a restaurant on the ground floor of a building near the Fulton Fish Market, Mitchell leads the reader to wonder along with him what the abandoned floors above may hold. It is this idea of mystery, things hidden from view, which permeate his stories. Whether he is describing the rat infestations on board ships in the harbor or the wild flowers growing in graveyards, his eye for detail is captivating. The narrative in each essay unfolds slowly, following a kind of wandering trajectory like the paths Mitchell takes to visit the individuals whose stories he relates with charm.

The Bottom of the Harbor is a book to be enjoyed slowly. The characters and settings are vividly drawn. The historical detail will delight those readers with an interest in New York's past, and the oral histories will captivate those readers who have a penchant for dialogue and psychology.

Armchair Interviews says: First-class essays all will enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book Club Pick, March 18, 2014
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No American writer ever laid claim to such an eloquent, organic style - much less applied it all to New York City, and the people, waters and communities around it. You won't find another voice like his, nor come across a story so brilliantly and simply told, than you will with the timeless, rich and enduring prose of Mr. Joseph Mitchell.

His pieces are a combination of Southern drawl and city sophistication, with subject matter that will suit your funny bone and probe the deepest vessels of your heart. He will kick around the facts of cosmopolitan rats, paint an artful picture of a Staten Island graveyard, give an account of the fantastic marine life that once filled the waters, all the while concocting lengthy paragraphs strewn with fabulous run-on, comma-less and poetic sentences.

In one fell swoop, God must have endowed the man the knack of psychology and the grace of a priest. He must have been, and most likely continues to be, the envy of many a New Yorker magazine writer. Yet that very envy must no doubt be humbled - stifled even - by shameless reverence.

If there ever was a writer that could lift your spirits and break your heart, well, ladies and gentlemen, Joseph Mitchell is, indeed, your man.

(Correction. Your "gentleman.")
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5.0 out of 5 stars A NY and maritime classic, October 23, 2013
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A thoughtful and gritty mid-century examination of Greater New York's waterways (often taken for granted) and the lives and livelihoods they supported.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wanted for my library, July 21, 2013
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M. Joyce "Puzzler" (Cooperstown, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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Read this book years ago and often quote it. Then decided I wanted to own it for reading and reference in my library
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful book! Must read for every NYC fan!, January 6, 2013
What a delightful and interesting read! Especially for me because I visited New York City some months ago including several of sites so prominently mentioned ... the Fulton Fish Market, Staten Island, Brooklyn Bridge, etc. I actually stayed in a hotel just a few blocks away from The Old Hotel. I added my joy on each page by exploring the mentioned locations via "Google Earth" for a better sense of the distances and current day views.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slice of History, January 14, 2009
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P. Bzdyk "book lover" (New York, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bottom of the Harbor (Hardcover)
This book is a wonderful piece of old New York history written in a simple straightforward style. The essays are very interesting about real hard working people and their stories. Loved it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Old New York, September 3, 2007
The people that Joseph Mitchell introduces the reader to in these character sketches are representative of a New York that no longer exists and their stories are nostalgic and sentimental. But there is more here than that. Mitchell writes with a respect for his subjects regardless of their circumstances that reveals a true observer of life at work. Without a hint of judgementalism he takes the time to understand and the reader is rewarded and enriched as a result.
This collection is particulary good and Up In The Old Hotel contains more of the same style. The latter book is more readily available although I found a copy of this at the Strand bookstore off Union Square.
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The Bottom of the Harbor
The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell (Hardcover - July 1, 2008)
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