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The Speakeasies of 1932 Hardcover – August 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Brought back into print, this redesigned volume of Hirschfeld's pen-and-ink drawings from 1932 offers a window onto the Jazz Age. His trademark illustrations capture the feeling of bartenders, both straight-faced and dour, as well as of the patrons, some dressed for dance, others longing to bend an ear. Set on the facing page of each drawing is a short essay on the drinking establishment (written by Gordon Kahn and Al Hirschfeld), followed by the recipe for that place's signature drink. For example, in Mike's bar in Harlem, the author's write, "Caucasian patronage is tolerated but not solicited," and the Pink Lady Cocktail is made with grenadine, brandy, gin and egg white. Hirschfeld depicts the bartender Ralph, serving a sophisticated, blasé black couple, sitting at the same table as a derelict-looking white man. The publication of this book marks the launch of Applause's new imprint, Glenn Young Books.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From The New Yorker
Originally published in 1932 under the rather coy title "Manhattan Oases," Hirschfeld and Kahn's book memorializes three dozen of some thirty-two thousand illegal drinking holes that sprang up in New York during Prohibition, ranging from the Mansion, where "admission is by a unique, wooden card only," to the Bowery dive O'Leary's. In Hirschfeld's caricatures of the barmen behind their bars, his dynamic line is less exuberant than in later years and has a muted quality appropriate to the Depression. The text, co-written by Kahn, a journalist and screenwriter whose career was later destroyed by the blacklist, includes a specialty of each house—gin daisy, horse's neck, brandy flip, prairie-oyster cocktail, and so on. A preface, written by Hirschfeld shortly before his death, in January, insists that he and Kahn tried every single one: "This may be the best damned researched book ever."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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Top Customer Reviews
Nina-searchers can now glut themselves on Hirschfeld's British Aisles, a collection culled from the New York Times; as a special treat, there are welcome commentaries from such big name Brits as Julie Andrews, Dame Edna, Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Lynn Redgrave.
A veddy nice job, but the real treats are Hirschfeld's Harlem and The Speakeasies of 1932. In Harlem, we can see the artist's style develop; before the detailed line drawings we have come to expect came almost impressionistic pencil shadings, at once more personal and mysterious, more abstract, and evocative and startling in their originality. Harlem has, as well as several historical essays, text by a band of authorities, including Bobby Short, Lena Horne, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and Savion Glover.
The Speakeasies of 1932 is a fascinating look at the dives and divine watering holes of that noble experiment, prohibition. Sketches of bars, bartenders and patrons, along with a written description of the joints, are included. Added to this fizzy mix are drink recipes from each bar; we should, perhaps, avoid the cocktail simply called "Smoke," from an establishment called O'Leary's on the Bowery. The principle ingredient? Two cans of Sterno.
Art should teach us something about the past, about ourselves, about our society. But it should also be fun. Al Hirschfeld accomplished all of this with pencil, pen and ink. If you aren't familiar with his work, meet this terrific triumvirate. And if you are familiar with dear Al (and Nina), then enjoy a reunion with old and treasured friends.