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Closing Time: A Memoir

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  489 ratings  ·  122 reviews
An affecting memoir from one of America's most provocative humorists
Over the past two decades, Joe Queenan has established himself as a scourge of everything that is half-baked, half-witted, and halfhearted in American culture. In "Closing Time," Queenan turns his sights on a more serious and a more personal topic: his childhood in a Philadelphia housing project in the e
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Penguin Books
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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
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).
Mike Clinton
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
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
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
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
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
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
Larry Bassett
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
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
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
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

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
Richard Risemberg
You might call this a "coming of rage" story. Queenan recalls his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood as seen in the distorting mirror of his father's alcoholism, his mother's indifference to her children, and the poverty that afflicted them all till he made his own way in the world, almost by accident. The story is for the most part grim, but leavened with the occasional dash of bitter humor, but Queenan writes well (despite the occasional grammatical infelicity that will annoy only ped ...more
Hoang Shin
This was a really good read. The author is very honest and open about his life experiences. He is able to really tell his story with the depth and richness of his words. The author comes from a very poor background, so when describing his father's love for literature, he also includes his opinion on what books mean to people of different classes.
"But books are without a doubt the wealth of the poor's children. Books are a guiding light out of the underworld, a secret passageway, an escape hatch.
Brian Goeselt
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
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.
Nancy Behrendt
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
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.
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.
Jennifer Glick
Just finished, love Joe even when he uses words like brobindingian.
Apr 19, 2009 katymoo marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Heard this author on NPR - a compelling interview1
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
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
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
Nancy Kennedy
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
Catherine Woodman
I picked this up because it was on the NY Timed list of 50 best non-fiction books published last year, and it sounded intriguing. It is reasonably well written, but there was something about it that rubbed me the wrong way. It is almost too cavalier, too protective, except at times it gives grizzly details, like his father using the metal end of the belt on him without the protection of underwear and the resultant injury to his genetalia--well, how about telling us how it affected your abilty to ...more
At times close to Dickensian (?) in tone as Queenan relates the brutality that was his childhood. Almost put down twice due to his attempts at humor that fell flat. Possibly mirrors the experiences of many in working-class immigrant societies. Brought up by parents with little education, whose parenting skills were learned at the knee of hard scrabble parents just trying to survive in a new world without extended family and the support of a community. Only at the very end is there introspection ...more
Linda Moran
Having survived a 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.
Kathleen Rinaggio Personius
Closing Time: A Memoir

This book is a riveting read. I found it to be personally thought-provoking and enlightening in the sense of the author's reactions and conclusions to the situations he was placed in. I would recommend it to anyone who has had less than a perfect childhood; to realize how seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome and true potential realized.
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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
More about Joe Queenan...
One for the Books Red Lobster, White Trash, & the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan's America Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler: Celluloid Tirades and Escapades Balsamic Dreams: A Short But Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country

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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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