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Up in the Old Hotel
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Up in the Old Hotel

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  1,848 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Saloon-keepers and street preachers, gypsies and steel-walking Mohawks, a bearded lady and a 93-year-old “seafoodetarian” who believes his specialized diet will keep him alive for another two decades. These are among the people that Joseph Mitchell immortalized in his reportage for The New Yorker and in four books—McSorley's Wonderful Saloon, Old Mr. Flood, The Bottom of t ...more
Paperback, 716 pages
Published June 1st 1993 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty SmithBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman CapoteThe Alienist by Caleb Carr
I Love New York City
20th out of 423 books — 226 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
339th out of 3,037 books — 5,010 voters

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Community Reviews

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Luc Sante's wonderful Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York is in some ways a pendant piece to Up in the Old Hotel. Though Sante's vision is darker, and he has a keener eye for the con, it's as if both he and Mitchell were coming at the material from different angles. Sante is a cultural historian; Mitchell's focus by contrast is more on the individual. But both have a special forcus on the gritty demimonde of the Bowery in the late 19th century and, after its decline, marked by the death o ...more
Sep 24, 2008 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
One of those rare treasures that just gets better with age. A one-man lesson in the cleanest yet most lyrical non-fiction you're likely to find anywhere. Whenever I need to clear my head and cleanse my soul, I pull out this book and reread any one of dozens of favorite passages. A kind of poetry of the streets -- Whitman would've loved Mitchell, I'm convinced of it!
I'd match "Joe Gould's Secret" with any famous novella in American Literature.
So many favorite lines ...
"Done by aproned, middle-a
Steve Turtell
This is one of the books I had to ration because I never wanted it to end. Of all the writers who have taken New York City as their subject, none is better than Joseph Mitchell. I once referred to "the Joseph Mitchell tradition" to Fran Lebowitz in conversation and she shot back: "That's not a tradition, that's a talent." Amen to that. One of a kind. I have read some of the essays repeatedly: "Mazie" about the saintly ticket taker in a Bowery movie theater, "The Mohawks in High Steel," and "Up i ...more
What is it about me and the old guys these days? I can't seem to get enough of them. Mitchell, a prolific staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, chronicled daily life in hidden corners of New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, from McSorley's Saloon, a men's only bar in the Village, to Gypsy neighborhoods on the outskirts of town. When my brain is abuzz from too much screen time and ringing cell phones, I like nothing more than taking a step back into old time New York City with Joseph Mitch ...more
A collection of pieces, mostly factual but with a few fiction stories thrown in, that originally appeared in the New Yorker during the 1940s and ‘50s. Most of these stories focus on the strange and larger than life characters who populated New York in the Depression and afterwards – eccentric barmen, street preachers, Bohemians, gypsies, fishermen, a bearded lady, a Calypso singer, and more. Mitchell’s beat is the Bowery, the Fulton Fish Market, and the Hudson River. He talks about the poverty, ...more
A disclaimer: I only read about 2/3rd's of this book. It's around 750 pages, but some of the stories were either too antiquated to read or were of a topic too sensitive for me to read (ex. the raising of terrapins for future consumption - couldn't handle that. Although, it did remind me of the magical Terrapin Station!). Otherwise, Mitchell's book is fantastic. He was a reporter for the New Yorker from the 1930's to the 1990's. These stories are all profiles he made of the common man and, specif ...more
Jakey Gee
Glorious. Probably the best non-fiction I have ever read and probably the best anything I have read in a decade. Not that this is surprising - that line about ‘Hemingway for fiction; Joe Mitchell for non-fiction’ makes the point.

This is where the normal arguments for fiction (that it brings a place and a time more vividly to life than non-fiction / history / social history) go rather out of the window. This reads like the best fiction, with the powerful feeling that these places exist / existed
An amazingly entertaining collection of stories written by Joseph Mitchell, this book should be required reading for any American Literature class in high schools. Mitchell, in his incredibly descriptive writing style, tells tales of some of the people he met in the 1920's - 1950's in and around the vicinity of NYC. Some of the stories contianed in this volume are longer, more complete versions of stories that appeared in an earlier Mitchell collection, "My Ears Are Bent." To read them again her ...more
Jack Silbert
I wanted to read this collection since 1992, when it first came out. Finally, last November, my friend Fiona loaned me her well-worn copy. It had been to Alaska and back with her, and who knows where else. At some point early in the new year, I began to read the book, first reinforcing the cover with clear packing tape.

Fiona, you know me too well. The book was a revelation, one of the best I've ever read. Even if I took my sweet time with it. Its 700+ pages hold 37 of Mitchell's New Yorker essay
Collected works of arguably the greatest nonfiction writer ever. You will find out more about NYC history here than in any other book on the subject.
I knew nothing about Joseph Mitchell before I picked this book up and out of a sale bin. Am I ever happy that I did because now I know just how well he wrote.

Apparently he never wrote a thing again after the last bit in this collection "Joe Gould's Secret". Thirtyish years going to his offices in the New Yorker everyday but never writing anything again. Part of me feels, sayang, but the other part of me thinks, its okay because what he did produce before those dry years was astonishing.

Webster Bull
UPDATE I can't remember when I enjoyed a book as much as I have this one. A collection of stories, mostly nonfiction, that originally appeared mostly in The New Yorker, these are extraordinary portraits of people living in and around NYC in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Many are fringe characters, including families of gypsies, barflies, and the incomparable Joe Gould, whose "Secret" makes up the last 100+ pages (see my first review below).

I might almost accuse Mitchell of being Catholic, though he
Apr 01, 2008 Dennis rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves New York, Everyone who loves the New Yorker
I re-read this book every couple of years. It's both a way to time travel to the New York of the earlier twentieth city and an immersion in that compelling yet somehow effortless prose that drives me to pick up the New Yorker every time I see it. I want to visit the New York Mitchell describes, and I feel deeply cheated that it's gone.
This isn't just New York, the center of the civilized world, it's New York as a place that grew up out of a Dutch settlement surrounded by long grass at the confl
Connie Courtney
This is a book that I come back to again and again. Stunning, otherwordly! It is a series of short stories by Joseph Mitchell who worked at the New Yorker. All of the stories are about real people who lived in NYC during the 30's and 40's. You are treated the the world of Mc Sorley's Wonderful Saloon, a bar that came into existence in the late 1800's. A bar with a potbellied stove for heat, various cats running around, a crusty owner from Ireland who collected strange memorabilia and hung it on ...more
This is a wonderful and readable collection of Mitchell's essays, in which he lovingly describes haunts like the Fulton Fish Market and McSorley's, one of the last bars in America to admit women, and profiles various folk and colorful denizens of New York City's nether regions, most famously, Joe Gould, the bohemian character with whom he is inevitably and eternally linked. Mitchell demonstrates great skill as a writer by letting his subjects seemingly speak for themselves, all the while renderi ...more
Audacia Ray
While I was in college and for a few years after, I was deeply obsessed with reading books about NYC's social and cultural history. I'm not sure how I missed this one. I'm glad I finally read it. Mitchell's writing is super descriptive and he develops character studies well enough that many of them feel timeless - well, timeless if you know NYC and its characters. But there is also fascinating stuff about a New York that is truly lost. I was especially taken with the writing about food - not res ...more
Karl K
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katie Knight
I'm re-reading this now. Each essay reveals something new and surprising about early 20th century New York City. My favorites are the Old Mr. Flood essays, where you learn a lot about Fulton Fish Market and the characters that wander there. I never expected to be so engrossed in a essays about fishmongering (I'm vegan), but everything is so lively and quotable and delightful, it really doesn't matter how you feel about fish.
I read this several years ago and don't remember many (or any) details except the fact that I liked the book a great deal. I think I will reread it one of these days to remind myself why.
some reading tips: probably the best/most reliable stuff is in the McSorley's Wonderful Saloon section, pt. 1. even so, wouldn't read it all in one go—wouldn't really recommend reading this whole book in one go—because it can get quite samey. I suspect I would have appreciated it more if I'd interspersed it with other reading. don't feel guilty about skipping stuff. i didn't, but i was often strongly tempted to, especially in the bottom of the harbor section (oh, if only i cared more about fish) ...more
God, everyone I know should have been telling me to read this years ago. Just about perfect.
Great writer, wonderful stories.
John Tessitore
Walter Winchell defeated Joseph Mitchell for the hearts and minds of America.

In the 1930s and 40s, the default camouflage for American literary insecurity was a noirish understatement that always pretended to conceal more than it was saying--think Hemingway or Chandler, or Bogart. Joseph Mitchell was the voice of that culture at its most humane.

Today, the default literary camouflage for American insecurity is a louche knowingness that always pretends to conceal more than it says--think Franzen o
Josh Hamacher
Joseph Mitchell is best known as a writer for The New Yorker from 1938 until 1996, although he only produced until 1964. This thick volume (over 700 pages) collects all of the stories from four of his books ("McSorley's Wonderful Saloon", "Old Mr. Flood", "The Bottom of the Harbor", and "Joe Gould's Secret") plus a few previously uncollected stories.

I don't think I had ever heard of Joseph Mitchell before I started reading this book. I don't even really remember why I picked it up, as it's not s
Jul 26, 2010 Teri rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Teri by: Bill Holcomb
Have wanted to read this book for years. Chose for our June 2010 book club so I will finally read it. I really want to!!

Four books published as one. All of the articles were published in the New Yorker. Superb writing by Joseph Mitchell. Many stories I look forward to reading again. Favorites: the two articles about the gypsies, "Dragger Captain" about Captain Ellery Thompson.(Loved Ellery!!). "The Mohawks in High Steel" about Indian riveting crews, "Up in the Old Hotel" which is about a restaur
Mandy Jo
This week’s headline? Old New York

Why this book? Friend's mom's recommendation

Which book format? Shabby trade paperback

Primary reading environment? Shady park bench

Any preconceived notions? Of a time

Identify most with? Joseph Mitchell himself

Three-word quote? “yellow-haired blonde"

Goes well with? mussels, cheese, onions

I spent three months trying to read this, eschewing all other books, and I can't say my time wouldn’t have been better spent reading something else.

There's a certain brand of jour
This is a collection of writings by Joseph Mitchell, who began writing for New Yorker in 1938, and actually comprises four previously published titles: McSorley's Wonderful Saloon, Old Mr. Flood, The Bottom of the Harbor, and Joe Gould's Secret. The bulk of these pieces are non-fiction. I've read all of the non-fiction pieces but for Joe Gould's Secret, which is considered Mitchell's masterpiece. I'm skipping the few fiction pieces for now and saving his masterpiece for another time, because I f ...more
Gary Corcoran
Nov 20, 2013 Gary Corcoran rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Gary by: caught a reference to it in another review
As plainspoken of an account as you are likely to find of what it was like to live in the old days of the Bowery, and for this kind of what we now call narrative nonfiction, I am always grateful. But for me the magic died there. I rarely found the sense of irony I associate with the finest of writers, or at least my favorite. I am reminded of that line from Hemingway's A Moveable Feast where he and a friend are exhorting each other as to what you can and cannot do as an author and one of Hemingw ...more
Diane A Brown
Mitchell, a well known reporter has filled a role in history that will always be remembered and loved by those who lived the life he wrote about.

The people in his stories are unique and have qualities some would find interesting. His writing is very descriptive and he captures countless details not understood or seen by the casual passer-buyer. You can easily place yourself as a fly on the wall soaking in your surroundings.

If you read “Up in the Old Hotel” with literary merit in mind then you w
There's a lot of reading in this book and very good reading it is. Joseph Mitchell was a reporter in New York city during the 1930's and 40's so he knows how to tell a story; "Up In The Old Hotel" contains 37 of them. It takes a while to get through this book but it's pleasant reading and interesting stories so I don't think you'll mind the time.

The people in these stories are (for the most) real. They are the everyday people he got to know on the streets and in the diners and taverns of the cit
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There is more than one author with this name

Joseph Mitchell was an American writer who wrote for The New Yorker. He is known for his carefully written portraits of eccentrics and people on the fringes of society, especially in and around New York City.
More about Joseph Mitchell...
Joe Gould's Secret McSorley's Wonderful Saloon My Ears Are Bent The Bottom Of The Harbor Old Mr. Flood

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“Also, I had not yet found out about time; I was still under the illusion that I had plenty of time - time for this, time for that, time for everything, time to waste.” 28 likes
“Gould is a night wanderer, and he has put down descriptions of dreadful things he has seen on dark New York streets – descriptions, for example, of the herds of big gray rats that come out in the hours before dawn in some neighborhoods of the lower East Side and Harlem and unconcernedly walk the sidewalks. ‘I sometimes believe that these rats are not rats at all,’ he says, ‘but the damned and aching souls of tenement landlords.” 1 likes
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