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The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from The New Yorker

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  168 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
From 1954 to 1981, Maeve Brennan contributed to "The New Yorker's" "Talk of the Town" department under the pen name "the long-winded lady." Her unforgettable sketches--prose snapshots of life in the streets, diners, and cheap hotels just off Times Square--are a timeless, bittersweet tribute to what she calls the "most ambitious, most comical...saddest and coldest and most ...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published December 31st 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1998)
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Apr 20, 2007 Emily rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves the city
maeve brennan was a lesser known writer for the New Yorker, who eventually cracked up and began living in her old office, even though she was no longer writing for the magazine. becuase the editors were such nice people, they let her live there, even take "baths" in the restroom sinks. (ah, the good old days when job security meant something.) before this sad turn, she wrote some of the loveliest observations of other people i have ever read. read this book during your commute, and you will find ...more
I discovered Maeve Brennan through Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own earlier this year. Kate Bolick's devoted admiration for Brennan moved me, and I wanted a clearer picture as I knew I would at least like her from what I had already read about her life. But now that I have read her work, the reasons for Bolick's devotion are clear to me, and I join her in admiration for such a compelling author.

The Long-Winded Lady is a collection of observations considering the people and landscapes of NYC
Aug 22, 2016 Allan rated it really liked it
This was a collection gifted to me by a Goodreads friend due to my interest in all things related to NYC, and one that I'd never heard of before. Indeed, despite her long standing column in the New Yorker, I'd never heard of the Irish columnist either.

Gathering many of the columnist's New Yorker pieces together in a period mainly encompassing the 960s, the anthology paints a picture of New York in transition, where particularly in midtown Manhattan, many of the sights familiar and much loved to
Aug 21, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I love Maeve Brennan's writing. Her observations are dead-on, sometimes witty, sometimes poignant. I added quite a few words to my vocabulary during the course of these essays. She uses some big words, but without being pretentious. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of NYC through the eyes of a sharp observer who was writing so many years ago. Edifying and enjoyable.
Jan 18, 2016 Ynna rated it liked it
Basically if you put into words people watching in New York City. Some of the essays (?) were boring and seemed pretty pointless, but several had great gems about the magical place that is New York. This book made me want to visit and miss the city and I always consider that a success.
Apr 16, 2011 Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Long-Winded Lady was the pen name, ironic in the old New Yorker style, of Maeve Brennan, who wrote these pieces for The Talk of the Town when the pieces there were unsigned. She lived in hotels, mostly around Times Square and the Village, from the 1950s to the 1980s, and her sketches were observations of people and incidents around Manhattan in the days when JFK Airport was Idlewild, Fifth Avenue had recently gone one-way, and shops and restaurants around Sixth Avenue in midtown were being d ...more
Oct 08, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
This collection of notes form The New Yorker made me miss living in New York. Brennan provides snapshots of New York neighborhoods, people, and restaurants. If you lived in the city or would like to, this is a good collection for you.
Allison Floyd
Nov 08, 2015 Allison Floyd rated it really liked it
Shelves: just-thank-you
True confession: I skimmed this book in haste, leaving a good chunk of it unread. This is what happens when your interlibrary loan arrives from the opposite end of the country, leaving you not much time with it. Of what I did read, there were several pieces I could take or leave, but the ones that gripped me were so superlative they stopped me in my tracks and made me feel profound gratitude for my accidental discovery of Maeve Brennan all over again. These include "Balzac's Favorite Food," "Pai ...more
Aug 05, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it
Shelves: shortstories
In my more reflective moments, living in New York City feels like my own version of Maeve Brennan's life. 'Observant' doesn't even cover it: Maeve looks at the world with unending nuance, humor, and love. This will be a text I return to throughout my life.
Katie Dreyer
Apr 20, 2016 Katie Dreyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It is in daily life, looking around for restaurants and shops and for a place to live, that we find our way about the city. And it is necessary to find one's own way in New York. New York City is not hospitable. She is very big and she has no heart. She is not charming. She is not sympathetic. She is rushed and noisy and unkempt, a hard, ambitious, irresolute place, not very lively, and never gay. When she glitters she is very, very bright, and when she does not glitter she is dirty. New York d ...more
Terence Carlisle
“Our friend the long-winded lady has written to us as follows:” Fifty-six gems of eccentric beauty. Throughout the nineteen fifties and sixties, Dublin-born Maeve Brennan contributed to The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” an ongoing series of “moments of recognition”: short, finely wrought “snapshots” of sights seen and people observed in a Manhattan that no longer exists. A self-proclaimed “traveler in residence,” the Lady is slightly mad and not a little melancholy, but towards her subjects an ...more
Justin Howe
Mar 10, 2014 Justin Howe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perceptive, sad, insightful, bitter, and comic - all these words describe Maeve Brennan's "prose snapshots" of New York City written between 1954 and 1981 and published in The New Yorker.

An extremely enjoyable book. Definitely worth tracking down.
Jul 01, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it
A lovely collection of vignettes from The New Yorker magazine. Maeve Brennan wrote for The New Yorker from 1954-1981 but her short, witty pieces for The Talk of the Town column were mostly unsigned and simply noted as being from "The Long-Winded Lady." Brennan was not long-winded. She was a master at the brief, witty, sometimes acerbic snapshots of life in her Times Square/Village neighborhoods. ( This was the seedy era of Times Square before it became "Disney-fied" and like a shopping mall.) He ...more
Roxy Rowe
Dec 20, 2013 Roxy Rowe rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved these essays. I bought this because I had read Angela Bourke's bio of Brennan, "Homesick at The New Yorker" and enjoyed it. Brennan's snippets about the streets of New York City are entrancing. She puts the reader right there with her, eavesdropping upon neighbors and nearby diners in small restaurants, walking down the dirty streets, watching graceful old buildings being torn down and replaced with ugly new ones, drinking martinis with her as she reads the papers. It made me want ...more
Donna Kusuda
Nov 01, 2009 Donna Kusuda rated it liked it
Maeve is an interesting author journalist with a colorful life that included alcoholism. Came to the US as a teenager from Ireland and became a writer for the New Yorker magazine. She wrote the Talk of the Town column for many years. Her stories/essays in this book are scenes from NYC life in the 50 and 60s for the most part. Very enjoyable especially if you have spent a fair amount of time in Manhattan. I could actually picture some of the street corners and sites she describes as well as the t ...more
Max Rasa
Nov 29, 2014 Max Rasa rated it really liked it
Jan 18, 2014 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Completely delicious and delightful collection of columns that capture New York moments. I loved that they had all the sense of place and culture of their time (1960s), yet most were the oddities and bits of magic of the city today.
Dec 03, 2015 Meg rated it it was amazing
This collection of essays is the kind of thing you want to read on a series of cold afternoons, swaddled in a blanket and drinking a cup of tea - or sitting on a stool at your favorite neighborhood bar. I say a series because Brennan's musings are best enjoyed as intended, with breaks in between to digest and appreciate. Her take on mid-century Manhattan is clear-eyed but loving and evocative.
Lynn Kearney
Jan 31, 2011 Lynn Kearney rated it liked it
I liked this a lot, though I read it too quickly. It should be savoured over a few weeks or even months. It consists of New Yorker Talk-of-the-Town pieces, written mostly in the fifties and early sixties,a period I remember well in NY.
Aug 30, 2014 Tyler rated it it was amazing
Many of these pieces read like prose versions of Edward Hopper's metropolitan paintings, with a similar feeling of crystalline unspoken loneliness. Essential reading for any solitary urban-dweller.
Jun 22, 2010 Catherine rated it did not like it
Maybe this book is better enjoyed if you’re a New Yorker. The stories are everyman/woman in everyday life. I tried, but I just couldn’t get through it. Enough said.
Aug 27, 2008 Merenster rated it it was amazing
As you'll notice, I adore Maeve Brennan's writing. These essays are funny and poignant, and make me wish I'd seen NYC in the '50s and '60s.
Nov 28, 2015 Justin rated it it was amazing
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Maeve Brennan (January 6, 1917–1993) was an Irish short story writer and journalist. She moved to the United States in 1934 when her father was appointed to the Irish Legation in Washington. She was an important figure in both Irish diaspora writing and in Irish writing itself. Collections of her articles, short stories, and a novella have been published.

(from Wikipedia)
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“I find that a decision to do something leaves me free, while a decision not to do something only leaves me surrounded with undone things and endless, exasperating chances of changing my mind.

p.175 from "Giving Money in the Street”
“When she [Maeve Brennan, the 'Long-winded Lady'] looks about her, it is not the strange and exotic ways of people that interest her, but the ordinary ways, when something that is familiar to her shows. She is drawn to what she recognizes, or half-recognizes, and these forty-seven pieces are the record of forty-seven moments of recognition...I think the long-winded lady is real when she writes, here, about some of the sights she saw in the city she loves.

p. 3 Author's Note, 1969”
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