The Telephone Booth Indian
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The Telephone Booth Indian

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  68 ratings  ·  8 reviews
A classic work on Broadway sharpers, grifters, and con men by the late, great New Yorker journalist A. J. Liebling.

Often referred to as “Liebling lowlife pieces,” the essays in The Telephone Booth Indian boisterously celebrate raffishness. A. J. Liebling appreciated a good scam and knew how to cultivate the scammers. Telephone Booth Indians (entrepreneurs so impecunious th...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 13th 2004 by Broadway Books (first published 1942)
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And again, and again. I have the North Point ed., and it was reissued in this series, which I reviewed in 2003, and which, sad to say, seems to have ceased publication soon thereafter. Not because of me, I don't think.

So in several ways, they don't make 'em like this anymore. Some of that is probably a good thing; as this article by Jack Shafer points out, Liebling made stuff up. Which is sorta disappointing, but also not that surprising. I'm not sure anyone, not even the promoters and shysters...more
Linet Henry
I read this book in bits and pieces sometimes over and over again. Like Joseph Mitchell's stories it reminds me of the New York my father told me about, the New York I remember very vaguely from early childhood with the pre-memory sense of familiarity which could have come from the stories your parents told you.

This is a fantastic book to read if you want to become a good writer, and if you like this book I suggest reading some Joseph Mitchell.
This was my first introduction to Liebling. Incomparably dry and funny prose (the unexpected adjective followed by a left-hook simile, or a metaphor so grossly unnecessary in its erudition that it is thus perfectly right) renders a 30s New York of carnies and cons and businessmen and wrestlers and hatcheck clerks so vividly that it becomes your life, your memories, your people. I get that way with Liebling.
Reprint of a look from 1945 of the way New York was before and during the depression. Filled with bookies, boxers, producers and hat girls. Fun read about New York in the early part of the 20th century. Chapters cover the Shuberts, boxers and the creating of coat checks.
I no longer own this book. I was so fond of it that I had to give it away.

Liebling is incredible. Though he lacks the soft, nostalgic heart of Joseph Mitchell, he captures the rough edges of old New York's hustlers and promoters perfectly.
Interesting vignettes of Depression-era life in New York. The day to day activities of small-time businessmen, crooks, athletes, and others are finely shown. Liebling's bias shows but this is worth the read in being a time capsule to a bygone age.
this was recommended by luc sante, who wrote the introduction - liebling's a new yorker writer from way back when, and this is a series of essay on broadway con men and riff raff in the 40s. it's excellent...
Steve Owens
We don't have journalists like this anymore. Sad.
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