Two and Two: McSorley’s, My Dad, and Me

Rafe Bartholomew. Little, Brown, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-23159-6
In this big-hearted memoir of a lifelong romance with New York City’s oldest (continuously operating) saloon, editor and sports writer Bartholomew describes a McSorley’s immersion that began with his bartender father’s tales and ends with Bartholomew pulling taps there during Hurricane Sandy. Venerability and quirks have made McSorley’s a legend: only house ale is served (two mugs per single order), women were banned until 1970, and staff irascibility is so celebrated that tourists feel insulted if they aren’t insulted. McSorley’s has been a watering hole for artists, politicians, and oddballs, a storehouse of oral tradition passed through generations of staff. Bartholomew chronicles this history and demonstrates how a crude, unforgiving, and extremely macho camaraderie sustained his family through suffering and loss. New Yorker legend Joseph Mitchell, a McSorley’s regular for over 60 years, wrote about the bar and inspired Bartholomew (among many others). Caution seems to play a role in Bartholomew’s approach, as he praises the owners and his coworkers with great indulgence. His description of his mother’s harrowing death from cancer jarringly shifts the register and introduces pathos and intensity that infuse the following pages. Bartholomew never ignores the darkness inherent in public drunkenness and jobs without health care or pensions, so his portrayal of the rough humor and blue-collar warmth feels completely earned. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 05/09/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-316-23160-2
Hardcover - 357 pages - 978-1-4328-4196-6
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-316-23158-9
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