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Reporting at Wit's End: Tales from the New Yorker Paperback – February 16, 2010
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=== The Good Stuff ===
* Several of the tales are literally laugh-out-loud funny. Self-proclaimed diplomats and low-value counterfeiters are both amusing and sad tales, but eminently readable. McKelway has a talent for capturing these characters and relating their story. Even though these tales are fifty or more years old, they still stand the test of time and are relevant and enjoyable today.
* Most of the tales are based in New York City, but there are stories from the South Pacific and Europe. Even if you have never lived in NYC, or any big city, the characters and plots are interesting enough to satisfy most any reader.
* McKelway is nothing if not thorough. For every story, we typically meet the character, explore his childhood, and see him in later years including the consequences of his actions. The author errs on the side of more rather than less information and detail.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* Perhaps the most charitable description of McKelway's writing style is to say that it is the product of a different time. I found many of the stories to be overly detailed, sometimes rambling, and often full of details and diversions not needed to develop the plot. All of the tales seem too long, but a couple cross the line into becoming unreadable. In at least two of the stories, I found myself losing interest and skimming parts of the narrative.
* McKelway is much better at relating 3rd person tales than autobiographical stories.Read more ›
First a word about the book's title. McKelway literally found himself at his wit's end more than once and, as a result, under psychiatric care. Two of the longer pieces in the collection, "The Blowing of the Top of Peter Roger Oboe" and "The Edinburgh Caper" are McKelway's own accounts of two memorable occasions when his paranoid imagination got the better of him.
Next, a word about the strengths and weakness of compiling so much choice McKelway in one volume. It is a great treat to discover one of The New Yorker's "Annals" pieces in the Table of Contents of the latest issue. My favorites are those dealing with uncommon criminals, imposters, and other screwballs lurking in the byways of Manhattan. Great treats, but piled one on top of another like a Dagwood sandwich, these articles lose something. My suggestion, don't slog through them over the course of a week or a fortnight, but read one or two at a time and put the book aside until you are ready for another helping.
When you do get to them, you are in for some great treats. Among those I most enjoyed are "Mister 880" and "The Big Little Man from Brooklyn." The subject of the first of the two, an elderly widower, supplemented his modest pension by printing and passing crudely counterfeited one dollar bills.Read more ›
Most are stories of New York and the interesting people McKelway profiled, such as; a counterfeiter of $1 bills, and a man who posed as a naval officer among others and is able to meet the president in the White House.
There are a few exceptions to the stories of New York characters; when he was a runaway from home and those done mostly when he was a public relations officer and with them you will see perhaps a different side of Curtis LeMay The quality of the writing allows you to glimpse these people and places even if you have never been near his subjects or New York. McKelway's thoughts and words are extraordinary.
It's a delight to find an author, that as you finish reading their work, you not only regret it ending, but you immediately go to find other creations by them. St. Clair McKelway is one of those authors and this collection of his essays is worth the time to sit and read and absorb his descriptions of life and most of all the characters he depicted.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the most entertaining books I've read in years.Published 12 months ago by Charles R. Golladay
He's one of the finest reporters of the ''40s, '50s and '60s. The stories are mid-20th-century but totally ageless. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Grandma Ag
Quirky and not something to be found easily elsewhere. There were a couple that were too drawn out for my tastes but some were hilarious. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Heather belle
A must read for anyone with any interest in reporting. The fact that much of the research for these delightful stories of New York's finest criminals and policemen (and some of the... Read morePublished on June 21, 2014 by Tony Potter
McKelway wrote for the New Yorker for decades, basically for decades when magazines were an essential way of getting deeper news. Read morePublished on February 14, 2014 by J. Foley
St. Clair McKelway's profile of the world worst counterfeiter is one of the funniest things I have read in years.Published on August 16, 2013 by Charles R. Woessner
I thought this was well-written and good reading. I really enjoyed it. The stories in it were interesting, as are most stories in the New Yorker.Published on July 28, 2013 by Barbara Versluis
"Reporting at Wit's End" is a wonderful collection of eighteen stories by St Clair McKelway that captures quirks and eccentricities of individuals who just happen to live around... Read morePublished on July 4, 2013 by Matt Mansfield