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Jobs and Sprees and Sorrows

William Fiennes, 16 April 1998

Joe Gould's Secret 
by Joseph Mitchell.
Cape, 200 pp., £9.99, October 1997, 0 224 05107 5
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... Joseph Mitchell, who died on 24 May 1996, was a staff writer on the New Yorker for 58 years and belonged to the band of contributors who made the magazine’s reputation. His special subject was the sea: he shared Herman Melville’s vision of New York as a city of the sea, ‘your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted around by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs ...

Diary

Mary Hawthorne: Remembering Joseph Mitchell, 1 August 1996

... Though we both came to the offices of the New Yorker nearly every day for 15 years, Joseph Mitchell and I were never introduced and we never introduced ourselves. I seldom saw him; mostly he stayed in his office with the door shut. But I knew who he was, almost from the day I was hired, and over time he came to know who I was too ...

Happier Days

Rosalind Mitchison, 4 April 1991

Scottish Voices 1745-1960 
by T.C. Smout and Sydney Wood.
Collins, 334 pp., £16.95, August 1990, 0 00 215190 1
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... Scotland, mostly memoirs and mostly familiar to historians. Old friends include George Robertson, Joseph Mitchell, Thomas Somerville and Ramsay of Ochtertyre. The accounts are separated into themes, such as school, factory and mine, leisure, crime (though none of the memorialists claim active participation in this). The excerpts are long enough to carry ...

All I Can Stand

Thomas Powers: Joseph Mitchell, 18 June 2015

Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Thomas Kunkel.
Random House, 384 pp., £22.50, April 2015, 978 0 375 50890 5
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... Joseph Mitchell​ of Fairmont, North Carolina lived one of the classic American lives: dreamy boy in a Southern town with a mother interested in the finer things, read a zillion books in college following no particular plan, decided he was going to get a newspaper job in New York City and become a writer, and by God did ...

Some of them can read

Sean Wilsey: Rats!, 17 March 2005

Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants 
by Robert Sullivan.
Granta, 242 pp., £12.99, January 2005, 1 86207 761 4
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... on the Waterfront’, the mother of all New York rat pieces, by the great reporter Joseph Mitchell: The brown rat is hostile to other kinds; it usually attacks them on sight. It kills them by biting their throats or by clawing them to pieces, and, if hungry, it eats them … All rats are vandals, but the brown is the most ruthless … Now ...

At the Whitechapel

Peter Campbell: Alice Neel, 19 August 2010

... in ‘Professor Seagull’ and ‘Joe Gould’s Secret’, two wonderful New Yorker profiles by Joseph Mitchell. In a 1946 letter to Mitchell, Gould wrote that he ran into a young painter I know and his wife … they had recently gone to a party in the studio of a woman painter named Alice Neel, who is an old friend ...

Frognal Days

Zachary Leader: Files on the Fifties, 4 June 1998

Previous Convictions: A Journey Through the Fifties 
by Nora Sayre.
Rutgers, 464 pp., £27.95, April 1997, 0 8135 2231 5
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... Wilson, James Thurber, Walker Evans, James M. Cain, Nunnally Johnson, S.J. Perelman, Dawn Powell, Joseph Mitchell and John O’Hara. Many of these celebrated figures, artists and authors approaching fifty at the start of the decade or only lately past it, grew up in small provincial towns, emigrated to New York in the Jazz Age and worked together in the ...

Crowing

Michael Rogin, 5 September 1996

Imagineering Atlanta 
by Charles Rutheiser.
Verso, 324 pp., £44.95, July 1996, 1 85984 800 1
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... protocol, only the US National Anthem was sung to open the games. Only Americans – Dennis Mitchell after winning a 100-metres heat and Michael Johnson after taking the 200-metre gold – puffed out their chests and pulled their jerseys to display the national emblem. Only Americans accused an Irish swimmer of using drugs when she won the Olympic ...

A Whale of a Time

Colm Tóibín, 2 October 1997

Roger Casement’s Diaries. 1910: The Black and the White 
edited by Roger Sawyer.
Pimlico, 288 pp., £10, October 1997, 9780712673754
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The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement 
edited by Angus Mitchell.
Anaconda, 534 pp., £40, October 1997, 9781901990010
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... unsure when this visit took place, but if we are to believe Casement’s Black Diary – and Angus Mitchell, who has edited The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement, thinks that we should not – it took place on 3 January 1904 and lasted only one day. Joseph Conrad had met Casement first in 1889 or 1890 in the ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote, 2 April 1998

Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... intimate account of the making of John Huston’s movie of The Red Badge of Courage.* But Joseph Mitchell was doing a similar thing; John Hersey used something of the method in writing Hiroshima, as did James Agee in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Since we’re presently interested in truth, I have to say, in all truth, that each of these ...

Baudelairean

Mary Hawthorne: The Luck of Walker Evans, 5 February 2004

Walker Evans 
by James Mellow.
Perseus, 654 pp., £15.99, February 2002, 1 903985 13 7
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... surpassed it. Diane Arbus, another photographer he championed, also rose to prominence. Joseph Mitchell once told me that Evans, at a certain point, ‘couldn’t see things anymore. Diane Arbus came along, and she could see things.’ While photographers for whom he had been a direct inspiration began to be recognised, he himself began to ...

A Traveller in Residence

Mary Hawthorne, 13 November 1997

... and who has written the Introduction to a reissued collection, The Springs of Affection) and Joseph Mitchell – as well as Shawn himself. They loved to listen to her because she spoke beautifully and with a lovely accent and in a lovely voice and because she was charming and amusing. But she wasn’t afraid to be caustic or difficult, either. She ...

Not Enough Delilahs

Andrew O’Hagan: Lillian Ross, 4 July 2019

Picture 
by Lillian Ross.
NYRB, 219 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 68137 315 7
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... a social nuance, she would look at you somewhat pityingly before telling you that her friend Joseph Mitchell could have made poetry out of it. She hated the New York Review of Books with a vengeance, resenting its ‘assumption of power’ and its ‘critical faculties’, and she told me there was no real writing in it and I should stop associating ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... over which Shawn kept the tightest of reins. Brennan’s male colleagues, including Addams, Joseph Mitchell and Brendan Gill (all of them her lovers at one time or another), joked that she had served her apprenticeship in hemlines. But it was the ability to spot the difference between ‘beige’ and ‘bone’ at fifty yards that made her a ...

Anxiety of Influx

Tony Tanner, 18 February 1982

Plotting the Golden West: American Literature and the Rhetoric of the California Trail 
by Stephen Fender.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £15, January 1982, 0 521 23924 9
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Witnesses to a Vanishing America: The 19th-Century Response 
by Lee Clark Mitchell.
Princeton, 320 pp., £10.70, July 1981, 9780691064611
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... could be experienced and described.’ This fear – this story – is documentated by Lee Clark Mitchell, who is concerned with different phases of the various ‘preservationist’ efforts which took place in America in the 19th century. As is not unusual during imperialist movements, conquest led to a revaluation – nostalgic, utopian – of what was ...

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