J.R. Moehringer grew up captivated by a voice. It was the voice of his
father, a New York City disc jockey who vanished before J.R. spoke his first
word. Sitting on the stoop, pressing an ear to the radio, J.R. would strain to
hear in that plummy baritone the secrets of masculinity and identity. Though
J.R.'s mother was his world, his rock, he craved something more, something
faintly and hauntingly audible only in The Voice.
At eight years old, suddenly unable to find The Voice on the radio, J.R. turned in desperation to the bar on the corner, where he found a rousing chorus of new voices. Cops and poets, bookies and soldiers, movie stars and stumblebums, all sorts of men gathered in the bar to tell their stories and forget their cares. The alphas along the barincluding J.R.'s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; and Joey D, a softhearted brawlertook J.R. to the beach, to ballgames, and ultimately into their circle. They taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fatherhood-by-committee.
Torn between the stirring example of his mother and the lurid romance of the bar, J.R. tried to forge a self somewhere in the center. But when it was time for J.R. to leave home, the bar became an increasingly seductive sanctuary, a place to return and regroup during his picaresque journeysfrom his grandfather's tumbledown house to the hallowed towers and spires of Yale; from his absurd stint selling housewares at Lord & Taylor to his dream job at the New York Times, which became a nightmare when he found himself a faulty cog in a vast machine. Time and again the bar offered shelter from failure, rejection, heartbreak--and eventually from reality.
In the grand tradition of landmark memoirs, The Tender Bar is suspenseful, wrenching, and achingly funny. 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.
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides
-Dylan Thomas, "Light breaks where no sun shines"
ONE OF MANY
We went there for everything we needed. we went there when thirsty, of
course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to
celebrate, and when sad, to sulk. We went there after weddings and funerals,
for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just
before. We went there when we didn't know what we needed, hoping someone might
tell us. We went there when looking for love, or sex, or trouble, or for
someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up
there. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.
My personal list of needs was long. An only child, abandoned by my father, 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...
Moehringer (pronounced Morier),
winner of the
Pulitzer Prize for feature
writing in 2000, is a
national correspondent for the
Los Angeles Times and a
former Niemann Fellow at Harvard
University. He lives in Denver,
Almost 50 Manhasset residents were killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. One was a Dickens bartender, another was a cousin of Moehringer. As the reviewer for Publishers Weekly so aptly put it, "Moehringer's ...
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