Up in the Old Hotel (Mitchell)

What a wonderful collection of essays. There are no celebrity pieces here and Mitchell, though present in some as an “I” figure, stays out of them. His essays are people, ordinary people, in a place, at a particular time. He lets them talk for themselves. Unlike many modern essay writers, these are not thinly veiled autobiographical sketches. There are no modernistic narrative techniques or meta-commentaries on the truth of such essays. This is one terrific writer, on his feet, getting on the bus or the subway and meeting people – people who fish, or sell movie tickets, or claim to write oral histories – and writing about them. I would have loved to hang out with Mitchell, to take a walk through the Bowery with him, or sit at a diner and watch him work. An incredibly memorable book by a writer I’m glad a colleague helped me discover.

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