Friday, November 25, 2005

JR Moehringer's The Tender Bar

We finished eating the turkey by 6:30, the dishes were done by 7:30 and I had an entire unscheduled evening before me. I spent it in the company of J.R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter for the Los Angeles Times. His memoir, The Tender Bar, has gotted spectacular reviews. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called him “the best memoirist of his kind since Mary Karr wrote The Liar’s Club.” It’s the story of a boy growing up in straightened economic circumstances. His father is gone so he finds male companionship wherever he can, including the corner bar in his home town of Manhasset, New York.

The book doesn’t open with a bang, but by page 50 I was hooked. Moehringer can write. I just wanted to share this description from page 77:

“Within minutes the Cadillac was crammed with a half ton of men. I thought we were going to the beach, but we had enough muscle to pull a bank job. Uncle Charlie introduced me formally, stiffly, to each man. Pleased to meet you, kid, said Joey D, a giant with a tuft of gingery hair atop his spongy orange head, and features glued to the head at odd angles. He seemed to be made of spare parts from different Muppets, like a Sesame Street Frankenstein – head of Grover, face of Oscar, thorax of Big Bird.”

There are all sorts of little gems like this throughout the book. Moehringer forms the oddest alliances. He starts to work in a bookstore in the mall, where the manager and assistant manger spend most of their time in the storeroom, smoking and reading. They decide he needs education, and go around the store, ripping covers off paperback books and giving them to Moehringer. (Stores return books by sending their covers back to the publisher) That’s his introduction to great literature. They also give him a future by convincing him to apply to Yale.

(He talks about writing the book here.)

It was a great way to end Thanksgiving.

No comments: