Monday, May 11, 2015


When this post appears, if all is going well, I'll be in the air on my way to a week of publicity calls in New York, having just spent the weekend muttering to myself on my couch in an attempt to hammer the outlines of presentations for 50 or so books into my head.

Accompanying me on the flight will be Thomas Kunkel's new biography of Joseph Mitchell, A Man in Profile. Starting a trip with a book you can count on is essential, and I have it on good authority--that of the book's manuscript editor, Benjamin Dreyer--that this one is excellent.

Knowing I could read it on the plane kept me from doing more than dip into it last week, but I did happen across one bit that I'll share. It's from a letter Mitchell sent a fan in 1993 who wrote him to praise Up in the Old Hotel:
Your letter is one of the first I am really answering because it has meant so much to me. If you remember, in your letter you said you had thought of writing to me about missing my stories in The New Yorker but had decided not to do so until you read in the Author’s Note of my book that graveyard humor exemplified the cast of my mind—"so," you continued in your letter, "you will appreciate this: I thought you were dead." Well, Mrs. Edwards, I don’t know why, but that delighted me. It filled me with cheerfulness. I keep the letter in the tray drawer of my desk and anytime one of those strange, sudden attacks of depression that many of us have hits me, I get it out and reread it, and it never fails to cheer me up.
A good way to start the week, I think. And a good way to start pining for a Joseph Mitchell letters collection . . .

(Oh, and never you worry: yes, I did pack a volume of A Dance to the Music of Time as well. Best to be doubly prepared.)

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