Mitchell, McNulty (and SJ)

February 14th, 2013 § 0 comments

In the most recent New Yorker Magazine, there is a beautiful, heartbreaking piece by the late Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996) entitled: “Street Life: Becoming Part of the City.” In a brief introduction, the New Yorker states: “What follows here is the initial chapter of a planned memoir that Mitchell started in the late sixties and early seventies but, as with other writings after 1964, never completed.” From 1964 to 1996, Mitchell went to his New Yorker office every day but never published a word. Street Life proves once more that nobody wrote about New York City, its places and people, with Mitchell’s eloquence, grace and sensitivity. It is heartbreaking for lovers of the New York City and journalism (a type of journalism that can only be described with the adjectives: literary and poetic) that Mitchell did not publish for 32 years. If you haven’t read Mitchell, check out Amazon for his books (collections of his New Yorker articles). You will be rewarded. Mitchell wrote wonderfully about food — namely seafood (though he did the definitive article on a gluttonous old New York event called a “Beefsteak”). Mitchell loved the Fulton Fish Market, its Sloppy Louie’s Restaurant and its unique raffishness. One of his composite characters, Old Mr. Flood. describes himself as a seafoodetarian. While Mitchell was the Poet Laureate of the Fulton Fish Market, another New Yorker writer, the lamentably short lived John McNulty (1896-1956), was the Poet Laureate of Third Avenue (the Third Avenue which had an El rumbling overhead; the Avenue which was lined with Irish saloons and Jewish pawn shops). Nobody ever wrote better about ordinary New Yorkers, horseplayers, bar room beer drinkers, unsung laborers, office workers, news dealers, etc. James Thurber, his New Yorker colleague, said about him: “Nothing, however commonplace, that he touched remained commonplace, but was magnified and enhanced by his intense and endless fascination.” (Permit justified parental pride. The same words could be applied to SJ and the series of “Sad Chairs” photos and poetic prose SJ posts almost daily on his Sad Chairs Blog. Better than anyone, SJ evokes the bittersweet qualities of urban life. Log into http://sadchairs.tumblr.com/ to experience a very individual view of the city.)

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