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Closing Time: A Memoir

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  575 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews
Joe Queenan's acerbic riffs on movies, sports, books, politics, and many of the least forgivable phenomena of pop culture have made him one of the most popular humorists and commentators of our time. In Closing Time, Queenan turns his sights on a more serious and personal topic: his childhood in a Philadelphia housing project in the early 1960s. By turns hilarious and hear ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published June 16th 2009 by Tantor Media (first published April 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30)
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Mike Clinton
Jan 04, 2011 Mike Clinton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Queenan recounts his tough childhood in a working-class Irish-American family from Philly and points out matter-of-factly (although with sardonic flavor) how he learned to come to terms with it. My main motivation for reading this was because of the demographic parallels to my own childhood, although Queenan's experience with his brutal drunken father and coldly indifferent mother are of another order altogether. Queenan's observations about working-class outlooks and assumptions, the character ...more
This may be the first book I've put down in a good long time. If you haven't read this book, you may consider these points:

Joe Queenan isn't really all that funny in this book. He takes pains to put in what he thinks are hilarious descriptions which tend to be overwritten, overwrought, and aimed primarily at making English professors titter.

This book was in dire need of a good editor. I'm halfway through it and it's just too damn long. Yes, I know his father is an alcoholic who beats him and tha
Dec 19, 2012 Gina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best memoirs I've ever read. Probably because I can identify with Queenan's childhood and escape from the working class. There are mentors along the way, most of them eccentrics that jump right off the page - and they make for hysterical reading. Ultimately though, books are what got him through. His writing can be incredibly caustic, but it's always honest and uplifting (which seems a weird way to describe it, but that's what I feel).
Jan 17, 2013 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joe Queenan, contributor to NYT, magazines and author of nine books reveals hair curling scenarios from his childhood of poverty in Queens Village, Philadelphia.
Queenan's story is compelling. The book is difficult to put down. I think it is difficult when you, yourself, have succeeded in spite of a seriously dysfunctional childhood. With harm and not help from parents, you wonder to what heights you could have flown with educated parents who gave even half a damn!
From that source springs Queenan
Dec 05, 2009 Shawna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited when I heard Joe Queenan talking about his book on NPR, I've read three of his other books and I enjoy his cranky humor, and his half-put-on smug sense of superiority as he skewers American banalities, and while there were many very humorous and poignant sections in this book, I was absolutely driven to distraction by Queenan's instance on using obscure words. I was stopped in my tracks at least twice on nearly every page, to puzzle over word meanings. I consider myself a fairly li ...more
Mike Reuther
Apr 20, 2013 Mike Reuther rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, autobiography
Joe Queenan's rise from poverty to successful writer makes for one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Queenan's father, an abusive alcoholic and dreamer, cast a considerable shadow over him. But Queenan was determined not to be like his old man or repeat his mistakes. Thanks to his own yearnings to be a writer, he managed to do just that. After forsaking the idea of being a priest, Queenan set out looking for other role models, and some of them are here. There's plenty of humorous episodes, and ...more
Jan 21, 2011 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard, memoir
Not unlike Queenan, I read my way into the middle class. I am familiar with a lot of the prejudices and knee-jerk attitudes he describes. I was much, much luckier than he, inasmuch as both my parents loved me and did their level best for me. Like him, I adore the English language in all its fearsome glory, and endeavor to use it in a manner befitting its incandescent variety.

Unlike Queenan, I'm not an unreconstructed, condescending prick.

This memoir was grueling. The horror that was Queenan's c
Elly Sands
Queenan is an example of how someone can survive their terrible, abusive childhood and rise above it all. His intelligence, determination and hard work awarded him the education he so passionately wanted and it eventually gave him the writing career he excels at today. He may be considered arrogant, pompous and maybe even rude with his opinions but we learn the basis of this and can understand it better. I grew up near Philadelphia so it was nostalgic reading about familiar places and it's fun t ...more
May 28, 2009 Mattcale3 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I usually hate memoirs, but Queenan is so refreshingly bitter that I couldn't help but be warmed by the cynicism. He hated his father then, hates him now, and is openly glad he's dead. Witty, charming, and like a punch in the face for all those who look to family for comfort.
Jennifer Glick
Just finished, love Joe even when he uses words like brobindingian.
Larry Bassett
Oct 14, 2011 Larry Bassett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This could be the topic sentence for the first quarter of this book:
When your father is an unemployed alcoholic and your mother has four children she can’t feed and may not even love, and there is no car and no TV and no telephone and no prospects, finding out that a stranger has donated a can of artichoke hearts to the cause is not likely to fill a child’s heart with joy.

As I began reading I thought that maybe I knew too much about poverty and alcoholism to really learn anything from Closing T
Liz Gilmore
Feb 02, 2017 Liz Gilmore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book by a really fine author. His prose soars, even though he does not write scene, scene, scene. Of course, he writes some scenes but his summaries and descriptions are just as engrossing. I may have helped that I grew up in suburban Philadelphia. This book is set in Philly.
Dec 02, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joe Queenan, chronicles his life growing up as the son of an alcoholic, abusive father in the slums and housing projects of Philadelphia.

Although it is ostensibly about his relationship with his father, the best chapters deal with the characters he encounters during his education and flirtation with joining the priesthood and the various jobs he takes. Of especial note are the proprietor of a low end clothing store, and the owner of a neighborhood pharmacy.

Being a lover of Classical music, I cou
Ken Kugler
I almost want to give this book a higher rating but when I think hard about it, I feel that three stars is what it deserves.
Joe Queenan had an incredibly horrific childhood that everyone in his family tried to escape from an abusive father that enjoyed beating up his children and abusing them mentally as well. He was not a happy drunk nor was he able to hold a job for too long a period. The one thing that Joe has expressed gratitude to his father for is his instilling the love of reading in him
Brian Goeselt
Jun 30, 2014 Brian Goeselt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of what you want to know about Joe Queenan's memoir of growing up poor, white and Irish in 1960's Philadelphia is presaged in the title's double-entendre. The twin themes of alcoholism and end-of-life reconciliation with the savage impact his father's drinking and physical abuse had on his childhood family occupy much of the book's energy. This strangely, wryly funny reflection on how a father's weakness and poor choices forced a son to turn outward and invent his own life and escape vector ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

In his review for the New York Times Book Review, James McManus wrote that Closing Time is likely to intensify whatever opinion readers already hold about Joe Queenan. This seemed true for critics, too, who were sharply divided about the book. Some saw it as unflinchingly honestóa memoir of Irish life in America on par with Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes (which, curiously, Queenan panned). But others saw it as a hopelessly cynical, unforgiving, and indulgent memoiróself-pitying in just the way Q

Nancy Behrendt
Apr 13, 2015 Nancy Behrendt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book about me, my family and our good buddy alcohol. I'm glad that the synopsis said escape because I could not think of the word that describe Joe's journey in the book and escape is it. Run Joe Run.

I grew up with our good buddy alcohol and could relate to the funny things and none of the bad ones, thankfully. I definitely remember the loud music -- only it was in the middle of the day and it was Irish songs and opera. My dad had a state job, was ready to retire and had over a year of sick d
Jul 25, 2014 Casey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I was not familiar with the author but picked it up from the library based on a tag on the cover stating it was a "notable book" according to NYT. I can't say I was crazy about it nor thoroughly engaged by it but it was well written. I felt the author had a kind of new voice as compared to what I generally read. The guy is maybe 50 or so,so it's not a fresh voice. I read for two reasons: One - because I love storytelling Two- because I love the experience of seeing the world through someone else ...more
Linda Moran
Having endured a good, old fashioned, strict, Irish Catholic upbringing myself I could definitely identify in certain ways which shall not be mentioned here. However, unlike McCourt, this Irish author’s lamentations are so heavy-handed with self-deprecation and sorrow, and so lacking in much-needed humorous respite, that by the middle of the book I was ready to shoot myself in the foot for all the grief I’d endured and by the end of it- the other one.
Feb 24, 2013 Janis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Closing Time is a depiction of the author’s childhood and of his violent, alcoholic father, and an account of the life that he created in reaction to his upbringing. Queenan is at once penetratingly analytic, passionate, opinionated, humorous. He gave me much food for thought – about the soul-sucking hardships of poverty, and about choice and how we come to terms with our lives, each in our own fashion.
Hannah M
It's grim being poor, but at least you can get some funny stories out of it. Glad I've read it, mostly because I like Joe Queenan's movie reviews. Not for: the faint-hearted, the non-Irish-American, or Those who want a bit of good cheer.
Apr 19, 2009 katymoo marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Heard this author on NPR - a compelling interview1
Sep 27, 2016 Aria rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
he was spot-on about what it's like growing up poor, as well as being a poor catholic in the states. other than getting across that he had shitty parents though, i didn't really see what his point was here. i never picked up on a story line, just a bunch on run-on descriptions about different people he used to know. pretty boring.
Mar 20, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is wonderful. This is the second time I've read it and I am enjoying it (if that is the right word) even more the second time around.

Unlike many reviewers, I have not only read every single book by Queenan - all of which are completely different from this - but I have liked or loved them all as well. This one is better and deeper and more sharply drawn. His anger and his disappointment shine through this honest, bitter, funny, sad book - along with his mixed up loyalty and love.

Books a
I usually make it a point not to rate/review memoir and autobiography books about abuse and/or mental illness, since it always feels like I'm looking at somebody who just got hit by a train and is smeared on the tracks and complaining that they didn't stick the landing. But something about this book weirded me out.

I can't remember where I got the recommendation for this book, but I suspect it was an article on narcissistic parents, since that's ostensibly what this book is about. It sounded frig
Nancy Kennedy
Feb 03, 2012 Nancy Kennedy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a pleasure to read a memoir from a writer as literate as Joe Queenan. I had my trusty electronic dictionary at my side while I read this book. Just about every page had an unfamiliar -- but entirely apt -- word or two.

The poverty-stricken, alcohol-blasted, violence-riddled Irish or Irish-American childhood is almost a cliche by now. Angela's Ashes, Hungry Hill -- there are plenty of books that attest to the breathtaking cruelty of a certain type of father. Mr. Queenan's book tells this sad
Jul 09, 2009 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Normally I'd feel guilty that it took me eight months to finish a friend's book. But I didn't want to carry my hardback around (to preserve it as well as my back), and this was a busy, stressful year in which I probably had the time to read more, but I lacked the head space. And this book deserves full attention.

I've read several times that "Closing Time" will amplify a person's preexisting feelings about Queenan--which are often love or hate. Maybe. This was a page turner for me, and a book tha
M Rothenbuhler
Mar 09, 2016 M Rothenbuhler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joe Queenan was an unknown entity to me when I sat down to read this autobiography. I am so glad I took the time.

Somehow he manages to tersely assess horrific moments without falling down on the one hand into maudlin self-pity, and yet not falling down on the other hand into stiff upper lip machismo.

People in this autobiography are not portrayed as total black and white, but in studied shades of grey. His times of self-assessment seem balanced and honest.

The effect of well-meaning and well-actin
I read this primarily because Queenan grew up a generation before me in roughly the same parts of Philly that my family is from and where I spent my earliest years. And frankly what I enjoyed most about it was Queenan's confirmation of some of my own ideas about Philadelphia. However, unlike me, Queenan mostly sees the city as a source of ridicule, and given his background it is perhaps understandable that he would not be especially balanced or fair in his account. Otherwise, as memoirs go, it h ...more
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
Of the hundreds of memoirs I have read, this memoir is certainly one of the best. It is the very well-written, heartbreaking, and at times, uproariously funny account of Joe Queenan's childhood growing up in the poor and downtrodden neighborhood's of 1950's and 60's Philadelphia. The story centers around the author's extremely difficult relationship with his alcoholic and incredibly abusive father. Although the story of the alcoholic, abusive, constantly unemployed, and down-on-his-luck father h ...more
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Joe Queenan is a humorist, critic and author from Philadelphia who graduated from Saint Joseph's University. He has written for numerous publications, such as Spy Magazine, TV Guide, Movieline, The Guardian and the New York Times Book Review. He has written eight books, including Balsamic Dreams, a scathing critique of the Baby Boomers, Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, a tour of low- ...more
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“Children are not born with their hearts hardened in this fashion, not even Irish-Catholic children. They have to be taught by professionals.” 0 likes
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