J.R. Moehringer, however, makes a compelling case for a life without a father in his memoir The Tender BarI had a dad growing up, and I am glad I did.
J.R. Moehringer, however, makes a compelling case for a life without a father in his memoir The Tender Bar. For all the trouble his absent father caused him and his mother, Moehringer’s life brims with envious events – summers days at the beach, Mets games, a job in a bookshop, Yale, The New York Times and early entry into an eccentric group of drinkers at the local bar. Without a man in his life, Moehringer found replacements slumped on stools, behind the bar or in a glass of scotch.
Moehringer whines his was through childhood and early adulthood, nearly pissing away every opportunity given him. He complains about the offer from his mother to spend summers away from her in Manhasset, New York. When offered a job in a bookstore with two quirky worms, he worries they will not like him. Convinced fate has decided he won’t get into Yale, he almost doesn’t apply. At The New York Times, he sputters, offering moments of genius but mostly hunkers in a hangover. He cannot make a decision without the “woe is me” treatment.
His Aunt Ruth nails it. After Moehringer and his cousin, McGraw, a top-prospect pitcher at the University of Nebraska, conspire to fade into obscurity together, she accuses the two of coming from the same lot as the rest of the men in the family’s single-parent history.
“She screamed that McGraw and I were cowards, the most despicable kind of cowards, because we didn’t fear failure, but success,” Moehringer writes.
And the one thing that is working out for him in his life, the bar and all those in it, he analyzes it to death, trying to fit the bar into explanations of life, suffering and achievement. He grinds the gin mill so hard, trying to crack a meaning to life out of it, that he misses life coming in and out every night.
I suspect the high drama of the inner conflict in Moehringer’s life results from a case of heightened emotional memory. It is easy to look back at formative events with an amplified sense of meaning. In Moehringer’s constant search for the token metaphor, the smallest action becomes a pivot of change. The decision to have that second drink means he’s given up on Sidney and the chance of ever finding love.
Driving the recount of his early days are the men of the bar and their interactions with Moehringer’s life. After each episode, a devastating week at Yale, an unforgivable blunder at The New York Times, a bad date, a failed escape from Manhasset to New York City, the folks at Publicans are there to offer a drink, good-hearted jabs – and what Moehringer needs the most – advice and encouragement. Through these conversations, the personalities of Uncle Charlie, Joey D, Bob the Cop, Colt, Dalton and Steve emerge.
Moehringer captures each character through barroom banter. They are built with same blueprints, a telling nickname, drink, history, but Moehringer picks up on the anomalies that set the cast apart and hold them together. His skills as a reporter shine, seducing each character into conversation and revelation. He endears the men to readers where you worry when Joey D gets too drunk, understand why Smelly attacked Moehringer one night, hurt for Bob the Cop when he reveals his past and well up and belly up to the bar when Steve dies.
Honest and transparent, Moehringer understands the men at the bar. I am not convinced, however, that Moehringer understands himself. It’s a reporter’s curse; apt to tell stories, struggles to tell his own.
BONUS THEME DRINK RECIPE
1 ½ oz. Blended Whiskey 1 ½ Teaspoons Sweet Vermouth 1 ½ Teaspoons Dry Vermouth 1 Teaspoon of lemon juice
(It’s a little drink. I’d double it.)
I don’t think anyone in the book ever ordered this one. ...more
A better writer told me this was a great guide to writing. So what did I learn? A few tips from Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast"
¤ Write until youA better writer told me this was a great guide to writing. So what did I learn? A few tips from Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast"
¤ Write until you know what comes next, then you won't worry about what to write about the next day. ¤ Transplant yourself.
"In one place you could write about it better than in another." ¤ Start with one true, simple, declarative sentence and then from there. ¤ When finished writing, read.
"It was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it." ¤ "The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always limiters of happiness except for the very that were as good as spring itself." ¤ Don't drink brandy. As Ford Madox Ford said to the young Hemingway: "What are you drinking brandy for?" ...Don't you know it's fatal for a young writer to start drinking brandy." ¤ The writer's essential tools: notebooks, two pencils, pencil sharpener, a table, the smell of early morning and luck
And the most important: Obey the THE "MOT JUSTE" the one and only correct word to use...and no adjectives....more
In July of 1974, Joe Klein, then with Rolling Stone now a columnist for Time, spent the holiday weekend with Hunter S. and some friends. He remembersIn July of 1974, Joe Klein, then with Rolling Stone now a columnist for Time, spent the holiday weekend with Hunter S. and some friends. He remembers this from a conversation with Thompson books and writers:
He had published his two brilliant "Fear and Loathing" books, and he was worried about what came next. He didn't want to become a dull parody of himself but feared he lacked the gumption to jump the gravy train. I asked if he'd ever thought about stowing the psychedelic pyrotechnics - his "gonzo" journalism - and sitting down and writing a serious, straight-ahead novel. Well, of course he had. But, he said, "Without that," and he glanced over at the satchel in which he carried his array of vegetation and chemicals, "I'd have the brain of a second-rate accountant."
But before he was just outside of Barstow and the drugs took hold, he wrote "Hell's Angels," a staggering work of journalism the depicts Hunter's Hell's Angels and disdain for mainstream media's sensationalism.
He never cared much about selling copies with headlines, apparent here in the honesty and lack of glorification/demonification of the popularly held 1960s terror view of these boys on bikes. Sure, you wouldn't want to cross them, but Thompson proved we could live with them.
More to the point, he wrote that America needs them, the Hell's Angels, if only so parents can point to something and say to their children, "Don't" yet watch anyway.
He shed his audience's curiosity and wrote from a position of indifference, becoming a part of the story as much as a Kentucky-born wiry journalist with tape recorder can in a scene of grease, denim and 200-plus pound frames, not the motorcycle.
If you think all Hunter S. can write is drug-binged fanciful prose full of contempt and critique for everything your parents taught you, then you haven't read Hunter S....more