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McSorley's Wonderful Saloon Hardcover – June 5, 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I don't think anything could be as much fun as to get a good hold on a pompous person and shake him or her until you can hear the false teeth rattling," says New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno to journalist Mitchell in a World-Telegram profile from the 1930s, but the sentiment could be applied to Mitchell himself. With the ability to turn bluntness to beauty, sarcasm to sincerity and plain speech to poetry, Mitchell who worked at the World-Telegram from 1930 to 1938 and spent the rest of his career at the New Yorker was a reporter and literary artist par excellence, interested in nearly everyone and everything. His profile of a stripper who begins naked and puts on her clothes is as fascinating as his sketch of George Bernard Shaw. Similarly, he is as empathetic toward Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan (the speakeasy queen usually called "Texas") as he is to the plight of Anne Morrow Lindbergh testifying at the kidnapping trial of her infant son. These 37 pieces and profiles most from the 1938 edition of this book, but with some new material added are breathtaking in their simplicity and honesty. Written at a time when newspapers tried to be as sensational as possible without appearing vulgar "belly" would be changed to "tummy" and "raped" became "criminally attacked" Mitchell made New York City shockingly vibrant and colorful without cheapening his subjects. He also evinced an empathy for African-Americans that's startling for the period (and the genre). In all, his liberating and refreshing honesty makes these pieces as vivacious, original and important as they were 65 years ago.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Mitchell was a cherished columnist for the now-defunct New York World-Telegram in the 1930s. He wrote primarily about the variety of street characters who seemed to be abundant in the great metropolis, and his columns read like Weegee photos transformed into words. These two volumes collect dozens of those portraits: My Ears Are Bent covers a variety of subjects, while McSorley's, which features a new foreword by Calvin Trillin, is a gallery of the customers at the famous Bowery watering hole. Great pieces of Americana.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (June 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375421025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375421020
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"McSorley's Wonderful Saloon" is, indeed, a wonderful compilation of Joseph Mitchell at the height of his uncanny literary powers. But Mitchell fans should be aware that all of its contents are likewise to be found in a previous compilation ("Up In The Old Hotel")which also includes "The Bottom of the Harbor," "Old Mr. Flood" and "Joe Gould's Secret." Fortunate readers who already possess "Up In The Old Hotel" should acquire the other newly republished Mitchell compilation, "My Ears Are Bent," a terrific collection of newspaper articles written by before Mitchell became embalmed at "The New Yorker."
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Format: Hardcover
What a pleasure to see this classic returned to print. Mr. Mitchell had a wonderful ear in his time, and now almost fifty years later, the tone is still strong, and the places that he told us of are mostly gone. Thankfully, McSorley's is still with us, but the Beefsteak Party (The Second best of the stories) and the theater on Park Row are long gone, as is the Third Avenue El. No one rides that anymore in the summer to cool off. There is a reason why this was voted one of the top 100 pieces of American Journalism in the 20th century by New York University's journalism department. (it placed 84th)
Buy it to read the bit on McSorley's, "The Old House at Home," and buy it to read "All You can Hold for Five Bucks," buy it to read one wonderful story at a time. Its good to see it back.
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Format: Hardcover
I originially bought this book because I am a fan of McSorley's and wanted to learn a little about New York History. I had no previous knowledge of Joseph Mitchell's works, and did not know what to expect. I wondered how someone could write a 350 page book about when bar. Then i soon realized that the book is a compilation of short stories about the characters of the city in the 30's and 40's. Primary source history usually bores me, because it is often dry, about someone consequential, and you have to read through alot for a little interesting information.

But the way Mitchell presents these characters you are drawn in into their plight,eccentricities, or just regular routines. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the city, or if you are a fan of the bar and are just curious like myself
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a special interest in McSorley's as my greatgrandfather, Phil McEvoy, lived over his blacksmith shop in 1870 on East 6th St. and could see McSorley's from his front door right down the street that runs between 6th and 7th. Unfortunately for his family he had a special fondness for the "sauce", so I am sure he spent too much time there.....This was a great history and gave me a true flavor of the place.
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Format: Hardcover
“I sat down on the bucket and told him that one Sunday afternoon in August, 1937, I placed third in a clam-eating tournament at a Block Island clambake, eating eighty-four cherries. I told him that I regard this as one of the few worth-while achievements of my life” (p. 304).

So writes Joseph Mitchell in his essay titled “A Mess of Clams.” Is this stylized prose? Not on your life – his prose isn’t even extraordinary. What is extraordinary is the voice of Joseph Mitchell: direct, down-to-earth, with sentiments and observations unpretentious even in the punctuation – in short, much like the man I imagine Joseph Mitchell to have been if Calvin Trillin’s Foreword is to be believed. And why should it not be?

The following paragraph (from the title piece “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon,” on p. 19, and from which the entire collection takes its title), is, I believe, as good as any for a second citation: “To a devoted McSorley customer, most other New York City saloons are tense and disquieting. It is possible to relax in McSorley’s. For one thing, it is dark and gloomy, and repose comes easy in a gloomy place. Also, the barely audible heartbeatlike ticking of the old clocks is soothing. Also, there is a thick, musty smell that acts as a balm to jerky nerves; it is really a rich compound of the smells of pine sawdust, tap drippings, pipe tobacco, coal smoke, and onions. A Bellevue intern once remarked that for some mental states the smell in McSorley’s would be a lot more beneficial than psychoanalysis or sedative pills or prayer.”

The last three essays in this collection (beginning with “The Downfall of Fascism in Black Ankle County”) take us back to Mitchell’s birthplace and the fictional town of Stonewall, North Carolina.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By all means READ this wonderful volume of a bygone age in NYC, filled with memorable characters brought to life by a superb writer! I live on the West Coast but had the pleasure of experiencing the very best meal of my life at McSorley's. Joseph Mitchell was a treasure! I now intend to read anything else he's written.
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