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My Ears Are Bent

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  247 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Vintage (first published 1938)
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(showing 1-30 of 589)
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William Korn
Feb 21, 2015 William Korn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ian Korn
Recommended to William by: Jim Paris
Shelves: essays
My good friend Jim Paris recommended Joseph Mitchell to me because he was a precursor to John McPhee as a great feature writer for the New Yorker magazine, and so he is. But although Mitchell and McPhee are both highly accomplished in their craft, they are very different in the subjects about which they write. McPhee writes (mainly) about unusual but "civilized" people of great accomplishment. Mitchell, in this 1930's collection of feature stories for New York City tabloids, writes (mainly) abou ...more
Michael Boyce
Aug 15, 2013 Michael Boyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some people make the difference between fiction and reportage irrelevant. There are some famous examples: Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S Thompson and Jospeh Mitchell. I only recently discovered Jospeh Mitchell. I’m both disappointed to be late and elated to be there in his prose at all. I first read him in the New Yorker, which is fitting since he worked there from 1938 until 1996 (a few months before he died). They published a previously unpublished excerpt from an unfinished memoir he started in ...more
Richard W.
Good quote: "It is a hot day. The citizens of the biggest city in the world suffer with the heat-jitters. In tenement windows tired wives rest their stout elbows on pillows and stare blankly at the raucous elevated trains. High-priced blossoms in the show-windows of Fifth Avenue florists are shriveled. Subway guards, sweating in their heavy blue coats, mutter surly curses and push people into the hot cars."

Joseph Mitchell was a newspaper reporter (called the best in the city) in New York City f
Sep 24, 2008 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not great but a good early peek at the greatness to come later when Mitchell went to work for the NYer and became released from the deadlines of a beat reporter. Some of these pieces are entertaining, but they read like what they are -- newspaper stories -- and not the true literature of the NYer essays. Not sure I'd recommend this to anyone who hasn't read the mature Mitchell of Up in the Old Hotel.
Dec 29, 2014 Steffi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: places-new-york
Zeitungen, die mit Sex-Themen Auflage machen und sich gleichzeitig als Moralapostel aufspielen; Sekten, die den Menschen Seelenheil versprechen, hinter denen sich aber in Wirklichkeit mächtige Wirtschaftsunternehmen verbergen; Personen, die in angeblich anrüchigen Metiers arbeiten, aber die moralisch den Reichen und Mächtigen weit überlegen sind. Eine Beschreibung unserer Zeit? Nein, Joseph Mitchell beschreibt als Reporter das New York der 30er Jahre – mit viel Lokalkolorit und historischen Deta ...more
Jul 31, 2015 Vincent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know I tend to go overboard on books that I like but I can honestly say this reading these stories from Mitchell just had me shaking my head with appreciation and wonder and joy.
His book is filled with anecdotes about life in New York City during the 1920's and they soul of these hard-scrabble inhabitants comes through crystal clear even nearly a century later.
That's incredible if you think about it.
To write about people who don't exist anymore - like the guy who delivers blocks of ice.
The guy
Feb 22, 2016 Alicea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Remember when I read The 40s which was a collection of articles from The New Yorker? Remember how I talked about how this book came into my life because I read an article on the NYPL website that James Spader was currently reading it? Well, from that spawned an untapped obsession with journalism. To get my fix, I turned to My Ears Are Bent by Joseph Mitchell who was a longtime writer for the esteemed literary institution mentioned above. However, this collection of articles is from his time befo ...more
Feb 15, 2012 Lady♥Belleza★✰ rated it really liked it
Mitchell’s writing is straightforward and honest, but not plain or boring. This is a fascinating selection of articles. Besides interviews he gives us a look at the inside of the newspaper business in the early 30′s for instance:

“When I got out of the subway at Sheridan Square I would get a Herald Tribune to see what the rewrite man had done with the stories I had telephoned in hours earlier.”
“Crime, especially murder, was difficult to cover on The Herald Tribune because we were under orders to
Mark Greenbaum
Jul 07, 2016 Mark Greenbaum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mitchell's early work in the NYC dailies in the 1930s bears many of the hallmarks of his later stuff, but it is thinner and tighter (befitting of newspaper columns), and much more reliant on straight recitation of subjects' quotes, with far less of Mitchell's gorgeous description (which was obviously more fitting in long New Yorker pieces). Treat this book as an appetizer to the main course of Up in the Old Hotel, one of the most sumptuous collections, fiction or non, in all of literature.
Apr 04, 2015 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting read. It is actually a series of newspaper column the author wrote while living in New York during the 30's and 40s. The famous, the infamous and the nonentities are all covered here with a gentle yet
sharp eye. Richly evocative of the time period (The Great Depression) the columns are both funny, sweet, sad and thought provoking. I am on to his next book, Up in the Old Hotel.
Nov 02, 2011 Adam rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1920s-1930s
While anyone interested in Joseph Mitchell should start with Up in the Old Hotel, this volume of early journalism--from nearly the entire decade of the 30s--is a worthy read for the established Mitchell fan. It’s true that the pieces are much shorter and sketch-like here, and some of them proved to be the first steps toward later and far more extensive pieces. But these are small quibbles.

Mitchell and his publisher were certainly flirting with sensationalism when they loaded the front of the boo
Kylie Poppen
May 10, 2015 Kylie Poppen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly a collection of stories to make you nostalgic for a time and a place you never knew. A deeply moving and elegantly phrased chronicle of the misfits, the blue collar, and the generally overlooked of New York City in the early 20th century.
Sam Schulman
Feb 11, 2012 Sam Schulman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mitchell's pre-New Yorker writing for a couple of New York papers, to my ear far less precious and more gripping than his New Yorker masterpieces, alhough of course similar in tone. Another advantage is that you get a sense of what newspaper editors and readers wanted in the New Yorker period - and how close Mitchell could get to the New Yorker style writing for ordinary newspapers.
AS for content - the pcture of the Harlem Voodoo supply wholesaler, the Italian grocer's mom, the murdre of the "du
Jul 17, 2015 Ray rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a fan of Joseph Mitchell because of the early 90's reissue of "Up In The Old Hotel". I'm reading all of his books and although this is very good, I would not recommend it as an introduction to his writing. The stories
were first printed as newspaper stories, which adds to their charm, if you consider that most of them are about colorful eccentrics and plainspoken residents of NYC that would not otherwise be featured in a newspaper. Of the Mitchell books I've read to date, I get the sense from
Dec 18, 2010 Nycdreamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great collection of 1930's era New York City stories written by newspaperman Joseph Mitchell. A must read for any person who seriously considers themselves studied in the history and character of New York City. Contained within the pages of this impossible to put down collection are stories about real characters: Bar owners and their drunken clientele, burlesque managers and the girls who worked for them and the men who drooled over them, Bowery flophouse inhabitants, con-artist preachers, a c ...more
Feb 02, 2008 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
What a great title! When I hear it in my mind's ear, Jimmy Durante is reciting it. This is an anthology of Mitchell’s pre-New Yorker newspaper work, all done in the 1930s. It's entertaining. A crisp, colorful writer, Mitchell’s subjects range from marginal to the mainstream, Harlem voodoo practitioners and world’s fair exotic dancers (read, strippers) to two of the Great Georges of theater: George M. Cohan and George Bernard Shaw. The best essays are the later ones about oyster men and other wor ...more
Feb 08, 2016 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, new-york
this book is full of astute observations about NY and New Yorkers from all walks of life. It also introduces various celebrities and trend of the time. I recommend looking up some of these while you read the book. hopefully it will make more NY history aficionados out there.
Aaron Levinson
Aug 20, 2009 Aaron Levinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly wonderful little book by a guy that became a famous New Yorker writer. This is an early collection of stuff he wrote when he was still a newspaper man. The glimpse into 30's New York is nothing short of riveting and fascinating. I was once an investigator for ASCAP many years ago and had some hilarious and scary moments in the "music police" force. I was amazed to see a section called ASCAP INVESTIGATOR written in the 30's and it described my job to a tee. I was dumbfounded. Anyway, desp ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had my 30+ years as a newspaper reporter to do over again, I would try to write more like Joseph Mitchell di.
Nov 15, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The first four or five chapters are the best of Mitchell's work in this collection, where Mitchell lets genuinely interesting people tell their own stories. The shorter pieces and the profiles of people like George Bernard Shaw and George M. Cohan aren't nearly as interesting (which might say something about Shaw and Cohan). At his best, Mitchell had empathy, a gift for letting people speak for themselves and a lack of condescension - the profile of Dick's Bar and Grill and his discussion of ins ...more
Betsy Housten
Jul 24, 2008 Betsy Housten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating collection of one NYC reporter's newspaper articles from the 30s. Particularly loved his tales about bars, Coney Island freakshows and burlesque shows... "I believe that the most interesting human beings, so far as talk is concerned, are anthropologists, farmers, prostitutes, psychiatrists, and an occasional bartender [...] The only people I do not care to listen to are society women, industrial leaders, distinguished authors, ministers, explorers, moving picture actors and any act ...more
Oct 27, 2012 Alvin rated it really liked it
Joseph Mitchell is justly famous for his long-form journalism about old coots, bums, and eccentrics in and around New York. This is a collection of short newspaper items from early in his careers, but the understated wisecracking style that makes him delightful is on full exhibit, even if the character sketches are more cursory than in-depth. Even so, his writing brims with compassion for the marginal and his eye for charmingly off-beat is keen as they come. A worthwhile read for anyone and ever ...more
Oct 18, 2015 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Keen to read Mitchell's New Yorker work after this one
Feb 05, 2009 Justin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
read this book and you'll get a good flavor of what kind of a city old new york was (and probably like it is somewhere, sorta, today). the style is descriptive, but not overly so, and many of these pieces were worked into longer stories later in time (from what i understand)... but the treatment here is quick, and only a few stories really stand out.. a quick read, enjoyable if you have a spare moment.
Stacey V
Aug 13, 2012 Stacey V rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read for anyone interested in twentieth century history and anecdotes as the book is made up of previously published newspaper articles from Mitchell's career as a reporter. I really enjoyed Mitchell's tone, and he fully explored each of his subjects, leaving no detail untapped. The title is perfect!
Mar 04, 2009 Stephanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-library
I picked up this book because I think my grandparents might have worked for the author (as his cook and butler/chauffeur). I thought it was a good document of a side of NY that might not have been otherwise captured. I look forward to reading more of his work.
Dec 14, 2008 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I understand that it was written to deadline when Mitchell was a newspaper writer, before his career at The New Yorker, but I found no significant fall-off from "Up in the Old Hotel."
Jan 24, 2011 Onyx rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Early work from Mitchell, everything not included in his "Up in the Old Hotel." Wonderful voice, and great characterization of the people he interviewed.
Apr 07, 2007 Bryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
Joseph Mitchell's earlier work lacks the singing lyricism of the New Yorker pieces but there is much to love in these little portraits of a long dead New York.
Sep 07, 2010 Jaylin rated it did not like it
There were some interesting parts to this book but on a whole it was like reading his notes on stories he wrote for the papers. There was no depth to it.
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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.
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“It is perhaps an ugly comment on the American press, but the function of the interviewer on most newspapers is to entertain, not to shed light. . . . An interviewer soon begins to judge public figures on the basis of their entertainment value, overlooking their true importance. It is not easy to get an interview with Professor Franz Boas, the greatest anthropologist in the world, across a city desk, but a mild interview with Oom the Omnipotent will hit the bottom of page one under a two-column head. . . . It is safe to write accurately only about the nuts and bums. When a public figure does something ridiculous reporters may then write about him accurately.” 6 likes
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