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The Pint Man: A Novel Hardcover – February 23, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Steve Rushin on New York Irish Bars

I met my wife in an Irish bar in New York: The Dublin House, on West 79th Street, with its great neon harp flashing above the door like a lighthouse beacon. We met before the smoking ban, when cigarettes were still compulsory and everyone left the place smelling like a smoked brisket and the harp sometimes seemed, as you walked out alone at 2 o'clock in the morning, to be blinking back tears.

At the time, I frequented another bar on the West Side--though "frequented" hardly does it justice. "Constanted" is more like it. The Emerald Inn, on Columbus Avenue, was a block from my fetid apartment and became, as it did for many in the neighborhood, the rec room or front parlor I didn't have.

There were other bars: You didn't want to be seen at the same place every night--a problem not shared by the protagonist in The Pint Man, Rodney Poole. Rodney is content to take up residence at Boyle's, the New York bar where much of the action (and conspicuous inaction) of The Pint Man takes place.

But I sometimes cheated on the Emerald, and went uptown to McAleer's, which had darts, or across town to Fiona's, for European Champions League soccer. There, my English buddy Simon and I would sit in hard-back chairs watching mid-week, mid-day matches that bled into prime time, and then into the 11 o'clock news, and then into the late night monologues. One night we chased a day of beer and TV with a bracing walk through Central Park, at midnight, in a downpour. When we reached the western shore of the park, we went to the nearest place we could find to get out of the rain: The Emerald, for a nightcap.

All of this is to say that I always wanted to own a convivial place that could shelter you from a storm, and reality, that was small, but with the sort of ancient, oversized, walk-in urinals they have at the Old Town Bar or McSorley's. (One of the minor ambitions of this novel was to do for urinal makers what Moby Dick did for whaling, and exalt an overlooked industry.)

In writing The Pint Man, I was faced with the elemental question of what to call my bar. Beer has long been in my blood, and not just in the literal sense. My ancestors were much practiced at naming bars. In 1946, my father's father, Jack Rushin, opened a joint on Market Street in San Francisco he called Jack's. But the neon sign he ordered came back misspelled. Faced with a costly correction, he installed it unaltered, which is why San Francisco had--under different ownership--a famous nightclub of the '50s called Fack's.

On my mother's side, I come from a long line of big-league baseball players, firefighters, and bar owners named Boyle. My grandfather Jimmie Boyle briefly played catcher for the New York Giants and his brother Buzz was an outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Their uncle, Jack Boyle, had a long career with the Phillies, then became nearly as renowned as the owner of a bar in downtown Cincinnati.

With The Pint Man then, I aspired to tell a story largely set in an Irish bar, with a lot of beer, and a little bit of baseball talk, and more urinals than were strictly necessary, and to call that bar Boyle's. Like its real-world antecedents, Boyle's is proof that sunlight isn't always required for life to flourish on this planet. --Steve Rushin

(Photo © Rebecca Lobo)

From Publishers Weekly

The first novel from former Sports Illustrated columnist Rushin joins other works of pub fiction, yet it's the wordplay—not the alcohol consumption—that drives the novel. Rodney Poole is unemployed, spends much of his time at New York bar Boyle's, and has had only one serious girlfriend. Change is in the air as Rodney's best friend prepares to move to Chicago and Rodney meets a woman named Mairead (who appears to actually like him); even his prospects of finding a job are looking up. It's not a plot-heavy novel, with much of its suspense revolving around a mysteriously disappearing and reappearing U-Haul truck and the question of whether two bullies schooled by Rodney will show up at Boyle's again. What sets the work apart is Rodney's sharp wit. Praised for is verbal ambidexterity, Rodney loves wordplay as much as he loves beer, as is amply demonstrated in his wooing of Mairead. The banter is funny enough to make the reader look past the novel's defects, and Rushin emerges as one of the sharpest wits on the scene. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385529929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385529921
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,025,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been a big Steve Rushin fan for 20 years, dating back to his early years as one of Sports Illustrated's most gifted story-tellers. "The Pint Man" was my first experience reading Rushin as a novelist and I was not disappointed. He creates, more than ever, like a kid in a sandbox, with each pebble a letter and no limitations about what may be lurking behind the next pebble.

For laugh-out-loud humor, plot twists, engaging pop culture references, periodic etymological lessons, trivia fodder, and just plain-old mind-blowing wordplay, "The Pint Man" is a bulls-eye.

While, yes, it is a novel, it also serves as an encyclopedia, history lesson, trivia treasure trove, and insightful commentary on a wide range of fronts. And of the many masterfully told scenes here, perhaps my favorite parts involves a guy, and an act, by the name of "Hookslide."
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Format: Hardcover
Rodney, a thirty-something year old man who has not yet fully grown up, is in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment. Six weeks ago, he lost his job in 'corporate communications' for Talbott's when he wrote a speech for the CEO of the company and missed what proved to be a very embarrassing typo, and his search for a new job can hardly be called serious. On the personal side, his best friend Keith is moving to Chicago to get married and start a new job. But happily, there is still one constant in his life, his favorite neighborhood bar, Boyle's.

"Rodney has read a book called The Great Good Place, by an urban sociologist named Ray Oldenburg, who coined the phrase "the third place" to describe informal public gathering spaces-bars- that are neither home nor job. Rodney had no work and home was a way station, where he kept his books and his bed. For him, bars were his first. Home was the second. There was no third."

Yes, Boyle's plays a very important role in his life and in this book, but it is not the only thing. He has all those books...

"He kept every book he has ever read. Until there were just too many, he had them all on shelves, their spines displayed as trophies, like the taxidermied heads of big game he had bagged."

And now he has met a smart, beautiful woman, Mairead, "rhymes with parade", who shared his love of wordy banter...oh yes, it may be love!

On the surface, this book is a glimpse into Rodney's life and the love triangle he is caught in, between his bar and this delightful woman he has just met. While that is a fine story, with some very amusing incidents, the real attraction for this reader is Rodney's love of words...palindromes and witty banter, puns and spoonerisms, and endless examples of amusing trivia.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been a big Steve Rushin fan ever since I discovered his Air and Space column in Sports Illustrated. I became an even bigger fan when I found out that the short schlubby guy was able to talk to talk the statuesque Rebecca Lobo to marry him. That was when i knew his glibness went beyond just clever,

In this, his first book, Rushin employed his knowledge and passion for words and made words and language the centerpiece of his novel. The premise of the story does not sound promising. A story about an unemployed wordsmith, spending his substantial down time in his favorite bar, enjoying his Guinness and indulging in his word play games with the other denizens of the bar.

The story itself is rather thin and the characters were not all that well developed, except maybe for the main character: Roddy Poole and his love interest Mairead. Everyone else was dealt a short and compact history as well as the necessary accoutrements so that the story moved along at a pace that served the story.

The key to this book is what happens between the character development and the plot evolution: the space between the notes, the time between actions, the bassline of the tune. Rushin filled it up with ruminations and pontifications about words, logic, trivia, and anything else involving the English language. So much so that the conversations became the focus and the reason for reading. The structure of the conversations drew me back, time and again. The discussions of the random facts stand seductively on the pages, where as the usual centerpieces: the characters and the plot became the window dressing. It is a bravura performance of the usage of the English language while in an alcohol soaked environment.

I actually liked the book, a lot.
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Format: Hardcover
Steve Rushin has a magical way of weaving words into a story that combines wit with story-telling and humor with philosophy. A year's stay at a beer-can shaped dormitory (McCormick Hall) just across from the 'Lanche can have a profound effect on one's vision. The Pint Man is very entertaining and hilarious, but after the laughs are done you realize the story has a deeper meaning. The Pint Man is about the friendships and relationships that shape our lives and the spiritual manifestations that bind us together.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Steve Rushin has written a love story to a bar, or more properly, a right proper pub, or tavern. I kept thinking, while reading this little gem of a novel, of Ray Oldenburg's "The Great Good Place," in which he coined the phrase, "the third place," to describe places like bars which are neither work nor home. It only seemed fitting that on page 117 Rushin cited Oldenburg, his book and the third place concept. Then he wrote of his unemployed, aimless, devoid of ambition but about to fall in love protagonist muse, "Rodney had no work and home was a way station, where he kept his books and his bed. For him bars were the first place. Home was the second. There was no third."

Rushin displays a delightful felicity for the English language. On almost every page he casts another pearl, leaving it up to the reader to determine how swinish he or she wants to be. Rodney is a good Irish Catholic, which means he goes to church occasionally when he is sober. His church is St. Brendan's. "He liked St. Brendan's for the same reasons he liked Boyle's (Rodney's local): the singing, the alcohol, the frequent invocations of the Lord's name."

That gives you a taste for the thing. It helps if you've ever fallen in love with a bar, but it's not necessary. You do need to understand how much fun it is to frolic in a field of words, though. Take, for example, a passage taken almost at random, "Tony suburbs. Whenever Rodney saw that cliche in a newspaper story about a place like the North Shore, he imagined a barbecue-aproned mafioso with that name: Tony suburbs. They could have called Tony Soprano that."

If you don't want to roll around in that selection of words, this book probably isn't for you. If it makes you nod your head in appreciation, then game on.
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