Up in the Old Hotel, and Other Stories

Front Cover
Vintage Books, 1993 - Fiction - 716 pages
14 Reviews
Up in the Old Hotel had its beginnings in the nineteen-thirties, in the hopelessness of the early days of the Great Depression, when Joseph Mitchell, at that time a young newspaper reporter in New York City, gradually became aware that the people be respected the most and got the most pleasure out of interviewing were really pretty strange. "Among them, " he once wrote, were visionaries, obsessives, imposters, fanatics, lost souls, the-end-is-near street preachers, old Gypsy kings and old Gypsy queens, and out-and-out freak-show freaks." One of the street preachers was a gloomily eloquent old Southerner named the Reverend Mr. James Jefferson Davis Hall, who carried a WHERE WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY? sign up and down the sidewalks of the theatrical district, which he called "the belly and the black heart of that Great Whore of Babylon, the city of New York, " for a generation; one of the Gypsy kings was King Cockeye Johnny Nikanov, who liked to say that the difference between Gypsies and gajos, or non-Gypsies, is that a Gypsy will steal gasoline out of the tanks of parked automobiles but that a high-class United States politician gajo will steal a whole damned oil well; one of the freak-show freaks was Jane Barnell, billed as Lady Olga, who was the Bearded Lady in Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus on Forty-second Street and who was a legend in the freak-show world because of her imaginatively sarcastic and sometimes imaginatively obscene and sometimes imaginatively brutal remarks about people in freak-show audiences delivered deadpan and sotto voce to her fellow freaks gathered about her on the platform. These people were extraordinarily dissimilar, but all of them, each and every one of them protected themselves and kept themselves going by the use of a kind of humor that Mitchell thought of as graveyard humor, and he admired them for this. Even the Reverend Hall depended on this kind of humor to get his points across, and some of his gloomiest sermons were at the s
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Stbalbach - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - stacy_chambers - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

Contents

The Old House at Home
3
Hit on the Head with a Cow
40
A Spism and a Spasm
71
Evening with a Gifted Child
106
The DeafMutes Club
210
The Mohawks in High Steel
267
Copyright

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About the author (1993)

Joseph Mitchell was born near Iona, North Carolina, in 1908, and came to New York City in 1929, when he was twenty-one years old. He eventually found a job as an apprentice crime reporter for The World. He also worked as a reporter and features writer at The Herald Tribune and The World-Telegram before landing at The New Yorker in 1938, where he remained until his death in 1996.

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