Up in the old hotel and other stories

by Joseph Mitchell

Paper Book, 1992




New York : Pantheon Books, c1992.


Saloon-keepers and street preachers, gypsies and steel-walking Mohawks, a bearded lady and a 93-year-old "seafoodetarian" who believes his specialized diet will keep him alive for another two decades. These are among the people that Joseph Mitchell immortalized in his reportage for The New Yorker and in four books--McSorley's Wonderful Saloon, Old Mr. Flood, The Bottom of the Harbor, and Joe Gould's Secret--that are still renowned for their precise, respectful observation, their graveyard humor, and their offhand perfection of style.   These masterpieces (along with several previously uncollected stories) are available in one volume, which presents an indelible collective portrait of an unsuspected New York and its odder citizens--as depicted by one of the great writers of this or any other time.… (more)

Media reviews

"In case you haven’t read Mitchell’s work, his Gould essays, along with his other great work from the New Yorker about New York, are collected in Up In the Old Hotel. I couldn’t recommend it more highly; in fact, I think it might be my favorite book of all time."

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Undoubtedly one of the finest books I have ever read. Joseph Mitchell is one of the greatest if not greatest American literary journalists of the 20th century, and probably all-time. On the surface it's written in the genre of human interest stories for the New Yorker. The subjects are old bars, wharfs, watermen and street people around New York mostly in the 1930s and 1940s. There is a mixture of anthropology and high art to it like Dickens and Zola. The test is in how well does it re-read - two stories I had read about a year ago and on re-reading them again it was a new experience. The detail is so dense and finely woven, it's impossible not to keep finding treasures in the same text. Despite the length I can't wait to read this again someday. My love for this book probably is not hurt by my grandfather who was a boatman in and around the New York harbour in the 1940s and 50s. Through Mitchell I got a taste of his time and world which is a great gift.… (more)
LibraryThing member stacy_chambers
I've read this book many times over. It just never gets old. Mitchell's nonfiction reads like good fiction, and his profiles of the bums, outcasts, and miscreants of New York are poignant and heartbreaking and sometimes exalting. Ironically, his attempts at fiction fall short of his profiles, but they still retain the same graveyard humor. This is one book not to be missed.… (more)
LibraryThing member d.homsher
Stories about New York City and environs, by New Yorker essayist.
Joseph Mitchell was a fine essay writer. He apparently enjoyed walking around New York City, visiting neighborhoods and places where he could sniff old, original city industries: especially the salty industries, anything that involved clams, oysters, fish. The essays are nostalgic, each portrait of each character (tattooed lady, the owners of McSorley's Saloon, the caretaker of a cemetery, oyster captains, oyster eaters) fond and smoky and exact. The nostalgia here, and the various casts of characters who belong in the nineteenth century but have somehow hung on into the twentieth, remind me of Country of the Pointed Firs by Jewett.… (more)
LibraryThing member freddiefreddie
A nonfiction book that goes down as smoothly as any short story collection. Joseph Mitchell, writer for the New Yorker, deftly and deeply profiles the miscreants and outcasts of 1930s-1960s New York City. Readers will (hopefully) walk away from this book with a changed outlook, seeing people - no matter how low on the social scale - as individuals with their own stories. Fascinating reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member kettle666
What makes the New Yorker so distinctive is great writing, like this. Mitchell is a master, and if he wrote a thousand page book about paint scrapings I'd buy it. This is a superlative collection of pieces from the New Yorker. Fabulous writing.
LibraryThing member Marliesd
Wrote for the New Yorker back in the good old days. Wonderful stories about old New York.
LibraryThing member JBD1
An excellent series of short pieces about New York and its occupants.
LibraryThing member mkhobson
This is one of my favorite books of all time. The stories evoke 1920s-30s New York in an utterly engaging, charming way. The characters are strange and fascinating, the writing is lapidary. Anyone who wants to learn how to write should make a study of this book.
LibraryThing member keywestnan
One of the founding documents of modern literary nonfiction. Under today's standards, Mitchell would probably be in trouble since he conflated characters -- but the writing is divine and the portrait of a now-vanished city -- which was vanishing even as Mitchell wrote these pieces in the '30s, is unforgettable.
LibraryThing member jason.goodwin
This is the book which set NYC for me, the way Chandler made my mental LA. Wonderful essays in the proper New Yorker mode, ranging from eccentrics to musicians, clams to gypsy dogs.
LibraryThing member jpporter
This edition is a collection of four books written by Joseph Mitchell, late essayist for the New Yorker. The essays contained therein cover the period from the late 1930's to the early 1950's. The essays, which amount to a common history of life in New York, are noteworthy for three reasons.

First, Mitchell was a keen observer of everyday life. Rather than painting scenic vistas of New York living, he gives us the fine details that make the scenic vista possible. His characters are every-day people, living every-day lives in an every-day environment, and instills them with a dignity a casual observer would overlook.

Second, Mitchell has a profound respect for the tradition of oral history. His characters have something to say about their world, and Mitchell is careful to capture these observations in their finest details. There is a point, there: we are the sum of what has come before us, and to understand ourselves we need to be mindful of those who are responsible for our being here. Maybe the saddest thing is that the oral history tradition Mitchell highlights is becoming lost to contemporary society.

Finally, Mitchell is a master at presenting his characters. Serious writers couldn't do better than to read Mitchell's work to learn how to develop a fine character sketch, producing not just a character occupying space in the world, but as people who both stand out with their own intrinsic value, and who add the richness to the world around them.
… (more)
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
This is a wonderful and readable collection of Mitchell's essays, in which he lovingly describes haunts like the Fulton Fish Market and McSorley's, one of the last bars in America to admit women, and profiles various folk and colorful denizens of New York City's nether regions, most famously, Joe Gould, the bohemian character with whom he is inevitably and eternally linked. Mitchell demonstrates great skill as a writer by letting his subjects seemingly speak for themselves, all the while rendering their words in compulsively readable fashion. This works best with Joe Gould who was a fountain of words anyway. The story tells of Gould, a Harvard grad, subsisting on practically no money (one of his tricks is to make a soup out of the ketchup in restaurants), with a propensity for making a spectacle of himself as he starts flapping his arms and declaiming poetry in the "language" of sea gulls. It shows how he works on his nine million word Oral History of Our Time. Within the pages of hundreds of composition books, of the kind we used to use in school, Gould claimed to be writing a history of the world in the form of the conversations of ordinary people as he heard them speaking every day ""What people say is history." (Reminds me of Studs Terkel). It was this idea that beguiled Mitchell and his readers, made Gould into a minor celebrity, and ultimately formed a tragicomic link to Mitchell's own career.… (more)
LibraryThing member pnorman4345
this is a series of mostly non-fiction pieces from the New Yorker describing people. Who: The rivermen in New Jersey, the people of Mcsorly's Wonderful saloon, the people of Fulton fish market, fishermen who supply the market, people down and out., the people who used to get oyster out of New York harbour. It is absolutely wonderful.… (more)
LibraryThing member ritaer
Originally published in New Yorker, tales of people and places in and near NY. Fascinating information about the fishing industry in the 30s and 40s
LibraryThing member dkuehn
fantastic look at old new york



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