cover image Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the ‘New Yorker’

Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the ‘New Yorker’

Thomas Kunkel. Random, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9752-1

Kunkel (Genius in Disguise) takes readers on a trip back in time, showing how great writers can both capture their own era and endure beyond it. Joseph Mitchell was a beat reporter in the early 1930s who landed at the New Yorker during its seminal years later in the decade, creating a style all his own. It wasn’t exactly reporting, but was a precursor to ’60s-era New Journalism. This was the form of his legendary pieces—mostly nonfiction, with a little bit of poetic license thrown in to make it work—which included “King of the Gypsies” in 1942, “Mr. Hunter’s Grave” in 1956, and “Joe Gould’s Secret” in 1964. Deftly drawing a portrait of the man, Kunkel demonstrates how Mitchell, by birth a North Carolinian, felt a love for his adopted home of New York City that nurtured the deep vein of nostalgia running through his pieces. The author also takes pains to explain Mitchell’s famous nearly-30-year-long drought, when he still reported for work but didn’t publish a thing. For those in love with the New Yorker, this tale of a bygone period in the magazine’s history will be nirvana. For those interested in writers’ lives, it will be the start of a hunt for Mitchell’s own books. Agent: Peter Matson, Sterling Lord Literistic Inc. (Apr.)