Joseph Mitchell
July 10, 2011 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Joseph Mitchell was a reporter. It's tempting to say his beat was the waterfront, but though he's certainly the poet laureate of the Fulton Fish Market, this would be too literal-minded and geographically limiting. His beat was the margins, including the metaphysical margin of life itself. Mitchell invented a temporal dimension for his stories, a strange and twilit place—Mitchell Time—where a density of historical fact and the feeling of whole eras fading from view are sharply juxtaposed with scenes of cinematic immediacy related in the present tense. A cozy aura of death pervades his work, which often features oldsters experiencing the chilling fear of its approach while gleefully playing hide-and-seek with the reaper. - The Village Voice

Mitchell is probably best known for "Professor Sea Gull" and Joe Gould's Secret - his profiles of a self-mythologizing Greenwich Village eccentric that were made into a film by Stanley Tucci.

He is probably next best known for "The Old House at Home" - a profile of McSorley's Old Ale House (est. 1854) that was collected in his first book, McSorley's Wonderful Saloon.

His profiles of the child prodigy Philippa Schuyler and the beefsteak have been previously mentioned in the blue.

But Mitchell's most profound writing can be found in his last book, The Bottom of the Harbor.
posted by Trurl (6 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

Mitchell should be required reading for every journalist.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:12 AM on July 10, 2011

I have read just about all that guy wrote. And to label him "a reporter" short changes most of his work. His portrait of gypsy life in America and Indian high steel workers in NY, for example, go well beyond what a reporter reports. His is fine non-fiction writing at its best.
posted by Postroad at 10:56 AM on July 10, 2011

Mitchell should be required reading for every journalist.

Agreed. Up in the Old Hotel was assigned in a (wonderful) literature of journalism course I took in grad school, but it really ought to be part of the curriculum for every undergraduate j-school class.
posted by Rangeboy at 5:42 PM on July 10, 2011

So I'm NOT crazy, and the book WAS creepy and depressing. That makes me feel better.
posted by serena15221 at 10:22 PM on July 10, 2011

His stuff vaults right past journalism and straight into literature.
posted by enrevanche at 5:21 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older The Scale of Nature: Modeling the Mississippi...   |   Happy anniversary, Neptune! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments