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My Ears Are Bentby Joseph Mitchell
Synopses & Reviews
In the fall of 1929 a young man from a small farming town in the swamp country of North Carolina arrived in New York City. Because of a preternatural inaptitude for mathematics, he had failed to receive a college degree from the University of North Carolina and suffered the added misfortune of arriving in the big city at the moment of the stock market crash. For the next eight years, except for a brief period when he got sick of the whole business and went to sea on a freighter to Leningrad, Joseph Mitchell worked first at The World, then as a district man at The Herald Tribune, and then as a reporter and feature writer at The World-Telegram. He covered the criminal courts, Tammany Hall politicians, major murder trials, and the Lindbergh kidnapping. He wrote multi-part profiles of notable figures of the day, among them Eleanor Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, and Franz Boas. His byline, appearing two or three times a day in The World-Telegram, would become familiar to almost four hundred thousand readers. But Mitchell discovered that it was not the politicians, business leaders, or noted celebrities of the day that he got the most pleasure out of interviewing, but people whose talk was “artless, the talk of the people trying to reassure or comfort themselves . . . talking to combat the loneliness everyone feels.” He began to frequent gymnasiums, speakeasies, and burlesque houses. He visited storefront churches in Harlem, covered the waterfront, and spent time at the Fulton Fish Market. Fascinated by the bizarre and the strange, he would become, in the words of Stanley Walker, his noted editor at The Herald Tribune, “one of the best newspaper reporters in the city.” In January 1938, My Ears Are Bent, a collection of Mitchell’s newspaper pieces, was published. That book, unavailable for more than sixty years, is now restored to print. A few months after the book’s original publication, Mitchell joined the staff of The New Yorker, where he remained until his death in 1996.
First published in 1938, collects interviews conducted by Joseph Mitchell of everyday people including a female boxer, saltwater farmers, a reverse strip-tease artist, marijuana smokers, a cartoonist, and a bartender.
As a young newspaper reporter in 1930s New York, Joseph Mitchell interviewed fan dancers, street evangelists, voodoo conjurers, not to mention a lady boxer who also happened to be a countess. Mitchell haunted parts of the city now vanished: the fish market, burlesque houses, tenement neighborhoods, and storefront churches. Whether he wrote about a singing first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers or a nudist who does a reverse striptease, Mitchell brilliantly illuminated the humanity in the oddest New Yorkers.
These pieces, written primarily for The World-Telegram and The Herald Tribune, highlight his abundant gifts of empathy and observation, and give us the full-bodied picture of the famed New Yorker writer Mitchell would become.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
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.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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