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The Tender Bar: A Memoir

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  34,239 ratings  ·  2,783 reviews
In the grand tradition of landmark memoirs - a classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, it's also a moving portrait of one boy's struggle to become a man, and an unforgettable depiction of how men remain, at heart, lost boys.

J.R. Moehringer grew up captivated by a voice. It was the voice of his father,
Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Hyperion (first published 2005)
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Valerie I think it reflects a natural state in a young man's life; most young men at one point or another take their mothers for granted. At best mothers are …moreI think it reflects a natural state in a young man's life; most young men at one point or another take their mothers for granted. At best mothers are to be tolerated (the annoying thing moms do that show their love) but when life throws a hardball or two knowing she's there in the background can mean surviving and in a strong relationship, thriving. I don't think there is any latent or evidential mysogyny present in this book; quite the opposite; his yearning for a meaningful relationship with a close male shows the void not present for a femaile counterpart. (less)
Martin he helped A.Agassi with his auto-biography 'Open' which is a really good book. …morehe helped A.Agassi with his auto-biography 'Open' which is a really good book. (less)

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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,239 ratings  ·  2,783 reviews

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Jul 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What's This Book About?
From The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer:

"I hate when people ask what a book is about. People who read for plot, people who suck out the story like the cream filling in an Oreo, should stick to comic strips and soap operas. . . . Every book worth a damn is about emotions and love and death and pain. It's about words. It's about a man dealing with life. Okay?"

Okay! Pulling this excerpt from page 335 of this 416 page book, I feel, allows me to use the author's own words to de
Debbie Petersen Wolven
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard Sutton
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Here's the thing. I'm a writer. I'm not a proofreader or an editor. When I read, I read for the pleasure of a good story with memorable, honest (not cardboard) characters. I'm not hard on other writers' work, unless they really disappoint me. An occasional repeat of an expression, a dropped comma, a misused semicolon -- none of these bother me unless they stop the read cold, and only then, if I can't pick it up again. It happens. I'm not a complete masochist, but I have noticed that most of the ...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bio-memoir
THE TENDER BAR is one of the first memoirs I read after jumping back on the reading band wagon in 2000. I loved this book and Moehringer's writing. Still have the hardcover on my shelf. ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I found this book by reading Andre Aggasi's memoir, "Open", in which he describes how taken he was by "The Tender Bar" and how this led to his collaboration with J.R. Moehringer. I was equally engrossed in the book and could hardly put it down over the course of a week or so during which I read the entire thing (which, for me, is 2x-3x my normal turnover rate for a book of comparable length).

The book is a wonderful memoir of a tough childhood (J.R. Moehringer grew up without a father in his lif
Oct 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nf-memoir
I really loved The Tender Bar! Any book that can sweep you into a story and its beautifully rendered characters (all the more beautiful, poignant, and powerful because they are real) is worthy of recognition, and I found this memoir to be fascinating and enormously moving. It was also interesting from its snapshot of a slice of American and local history: Manhasset, Long Island, in the 70s and 80s and into the early 21st century. The author, being raised by his mother in her father's dysfunction ...more
Feb 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Just read for book club. Its an easy read. I guess I was interested in his life and the history on Long Island makes it easy to identify with. I just feel like I have been down this road before with a memoir. Dysfunctional family, overcoming it all and going to Yale, etc..etc...and does he whine about it. He never stops!

He continues to show the people in his life addicted to alcohol, drugs, and gambling in a postive light - even when sometimes the outcome of such a life is horrible- he still ho
Jan 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
Two friends of mine claimed this was their favorite book, which is probably the only reason why I made myself finish this long, whining memoir. JR Moehringer starts off with a nice premise: He wants to write about the Long Island bar he grew up in, and the wild cast of characters at the bar who filled in for his absent, dead-beat dad. Moehringer's got some funny stories, and he's pretty good at capturing the moods of the bar and describing the people in his life. But at the end of the book, all ...more
Steve Piacente
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Oh, the damage an absent father can do. No-show, no-care dads practice a different brand of abuse than fathers who use their fists, but the distinction is lost on the little boy waiting curbside for a dad who isn’t coming. Given a choice, the boy might even opt for corporal punishment over icy indifference.

J.R. Moehringer captures the lives of many such boys in his poignant memoir, “The Tender Bar.” Moehringer’s radio personality dad was MIA so often, he came to think of his dad as “The Voice,”
Oct 02, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who enjoy sitcom-like memoirs
Jeesh. I picked this up for my husband's birthday and decided to read it myself. I was so excited. I got it from a local book store where one of the book clerks wrote an amazing review. I thought it was going to be about bar culture and the magical and redemptive qualities that can be found in your local bar/pub. I was wrong. It's mostly a memoir of Moehinger's boyhood and college days at Yale. The lack of male role models is a constant and boring theme that runs throughout the book. The love of ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As many stars as there are drops of beer in a pint glass. Some of the most beautiful writing ever.
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-rated
This is an incredibly honest book by an incredibly good story teller. JR grew up with an absent father and ended up with many "fathers", and one enormously strong and dedicated mother. I, too, grew up with an absent father and an enormously strong and dedicated mother so I could relate to much of his emotional upheaval at times. My heart was breaking when his father didn't show up after telling him he would be there to take him to a baseball game.

During my reading of this book, I also saw a hal
Oct 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
i found this to be a memoir with a lot of heart but little literary value. what moehringer does very well is create a vivid atmosphere, using dialogue in particular to paint a picture that you can easily imagine as if you were in the room with him. i read in a separate review that the most interesting thing about the author is the people he knows - and it's true, the characters in this book are very colorful and tend to overshadow moehringer's self-absorbed drama. another reason to enjoy the boo ...more
Apr 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I found myself laughing out loud while reading it. The book is basically about his coming of age and most of it takes place at a local pub on Long Island where his uncle was a bartender. I really like his style and how the chapters are like short stories, yet they follow a timeline. I really got to like the author; he reminds me of a straight version of Sedaris or Borroughs.

The missing star is mainly a pet peeve I have about the epilogue, which I recommend you skip.
Mar 01, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who don't mind listening to other people talk about themselves
While reading, I wrote this:
Working on it. Mom's book club. Came in a box with Valentine's Day goodies, including:
- A heart-shaped potholder
- Cups with hearts on them
- Candy hearts
- A heart-shaped PEZ dispenser
- Pink footie socks
- 3 or maybe 4 V-Day cards, they keep turning up in odd places, like wedged into The Tender Bar.
- Pink rubber duckies with hearts on them
- My camera battery charger

A good story. A bicentennial sofa. A little deliberate, but I'm still going.

After reading, I write this:
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Publicans, the bar where the author found his mojo, has just been rechristened in Manhasset. I guess it's pretty telling that I liked a 5 star and a 1 star review, because both made valid points about the book. On the positive side, Moehringer writes well (for a Yalie anyway), but his life is a mess, with a deadbeat, absentee father, and a mother barely able to keep them afloat, shuttling between living with her parents or trying to make it in their own place. The other highlight is the zany cha ...more
robin friedman
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it

I received J. R. Moehringer's memoir, "The Tender Bar," as a gift from someone who knew I was a reader of the underground writer Charles Bukowski (1920 --1994) whose novels and poems deal with hard drinking in squalid flats, poverty, horseracing, and exploits with women. His story "Barfly" became a movie some years ago.

But there is in fact little resemblance between Moerhinger and Bukowski. Moehringer is a successful reporter, a graduate of Yale, a fellow at Harvard, and the recipient of a
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Tata J
Shelves: memoirs
John Joseph Moehringer (born 1964) grew up in Manhasset, New York. He is a graduate of Yale and used to work at New York Times and won the Pulitzer Award for Feature Writing in 2000. This memoir, The Tender Bar is the recollection of his childhood up to his early adulthood. Published in 2005, when Andre Agassi read this book, he asked Moehringer to collaborate with him the writing of his own memoir, Open published last year, 2009. You must be seeing that book prominently displayed in your bookst ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
5 stars! My friend Beth wanted me to read this for ages! I still have tears in my eyes at the poignancy of this memoir.

I don't think I can write a review of The Tender Bar. I just really liked it and am happy I read it and would tell others to read it too. It is very sad though.

It's amazing how well he wrote, using such great descriptive words that you really could almost feel you were right there with him experiencing it all.

I'd recommend it!
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Dear J. R. Moehringer, this is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. I finished it in tears. Kudos! ...more
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was required reading for a memoir class that I audited last year. I must confess, I’m not a fan of memoirs that are soaked in booz, but I did my usual quick read through to get the story and found that, though appalled at times, I did enjoy the story and cared very much for J R and his mother. The Tender Bar title is a play on words. Growing up in the bar, J R was not coddled, but he was tended to or watched out for by a series of regular bar customers and bar tenders. I think of the f ...more
Thomas Holbrook
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memior
One must have a “place” in order to be. Without a place to stand, one cannot perceive the idea of belonging. For many, if not most, of us spend a great deal of our “growing up” years sorting out just where that “place” is. This mythical location that is more real than the keys of this computer, is made up of: physical location, culture, belief, what is ingested, speech, language and a multitude of other factors that are as imperceptible as the “daily recommended allowance” of needed vitamins and ...more
Jan 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
I initially fell in love with this memoir, and for 150 pages could not put it down. This is when Moehringer describes his childhood in a dysfunctional broken-down home in Long Island and his search on the radio air waves for his missing father's voice. He writes hauntingly and convincingly of his childhood anxieties, much of which center on protecting his mother, and his drive to take care of her. He describes his early discovery of the neighborhood bar, where his Uncle Charlie worked, and found ...more
Patrick Gibson
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Patrick by: Suzanne, David and a bunch of you guys
This is a curious way to preface a book: “I needed a family, a home, and men. Especially men. I needed men as mentors, heroes, role models, and as a kind of masculine counterweight to my mother, grandmother, aunt and five female cousins with whom I lived. The bar provided me with all the men I needed, and one or two men who were the last thing I needed.”

It’s not what you think.

And I can’t really write any comments on this book. Six trillion people love it—and two don’t. I am the other one.

Sep 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Not a bad memoir; not particularly gripping, but very vivid in its way of person-description-by-storytelling. Probably the least "woe is me, I'm a drunk" and most interesting "look how I became a reporter for Times" book out there. And still, it became rambly. About two-thirds of the way through, I wondered why so many pages remained and what Moehringer could possibly have left to tell me that was so darned important. I hate when the story seems over and the book keeps going. Of course, I claim ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wish I had read this sooner.
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If it takes a village to raise a child, for J. R. Moehringer, it took Manhasset, in Long Island, NY; and more specifically, it took a neighborhood bar named Dickens (later called Publicans).

In the 1970s and 80s, the young boy was first captivated by The Voice, the unseen presence of his absent father. When the radio presence mysteriously disappeared, he inadvertently stumbled upon a host of other mentors in the bar on the corner in his village.

Two themes guided the young boy: growing up to take
"I used to say I'd found in Steve's bar the fathers I needed, but this wasn't quite right. At some point the bar itself became my father, its dozens of men melding me into one enormous male eye looking over my shoulder, providing that needed alternative to my mother, that Y chromosome to her X".--JR Moehringer, pg. 9 of prologue

I keep saying this memoir reminded me of an American version of Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes". However, it's the essence more than the actual details that brings me
Michael Economy
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Michael by: Meg Economy
the first 1/3 or so is a bit whiny, but then the book gets a bit better. Over all i liked it.

I really hate how every book published after 9/11 lets you know its published after 9/11 by devoting atleast a chapter to that subject.

Despite my mothers promises that there was no hidden agenda in sending me this book, I did notice that the main character's mother was held in very high regard through out the book. The author also spends a substantial amount of time taking about realizing his potential a
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this brilliantly written and heartfelt memoir. Uncle Charlie, Cager and Steve are my new found heroes and all are (were) the epitome of cool. You don't mind if I say epitome, do you? So glad I finally read this...Highly recommend! ...more
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J.R. Moehringer is an American journalist and author. Born in New York City and raised in Manhasset, New York, he is a former national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.

A 1986 graduate of Yale University, Moehringer began his journalism career as a news assistant at The New York Times.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2000.

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