Friday, May 8, 2015

A Mitchell morning.

Some of the writing I do in this space is, in essence, a tribute to my writing paragon, Joseph Mitchell. Mitchell worked at "The New Yorker" for more than 50 years and produced some of the 20th Century's best reporting.

In my own way, I've tried to model what writing I do after Mitchell. Just like when I played baseball I used to look at Ted Williams' swing, or Roberto Clemente's.

Here's a small excerpt from a 1951 piece called "The Bottom of the Harbor." It should give you some idea of the prose I aspire to.
You can buy this volume for a few bucks or go for the more famous and compendious "Up in the Old Hotel." Either will not only help you write, they'll help you, I think, think.

Many of my readers--if I can use many and readers in the same sentence--tell me they like the New York stories I tell. If you like what I do, you should really read Mitchell.

To that point, I am reading a new biography of Mitchell, just published by Thomas Kunkel, called "Man in Profile." You can buy the book here.

In it, you get more than the story of Mitchell and the mystery behind his 30-years of writer's block. You get an look into the development of his ear. His ability to listen. And his talent for turning observation into insight.

If you love New York and love writing, turn off the TV for a weekend. Put away the banalities streamed to you from your ever-present i-devices.

And read.

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