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
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.
In his gimlet-eyed memoir, The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer
lovingly and affectingly toasts a boyhood spent on a barstool.
The best thing about The Tender Bar is that it is many stories in
one. Moehringer has hours and hours of stories that any bar hound worth his
stool would bend both ears to drink in. Thankfully, the writer has opted to put
them down on paper.
The genuine tension in the story lies in the distance between who young
J.R. Moehringer was and who he wanted to be. As the distance shrinks, you'll
want to cheer. But the cheer will die in your throat after you realize that once
the gap has narrowed all the way, the story will be over. The only thing wrong
with this terrific debut is that there has to be a closing time.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
..... the real richness of The Tender Bar lies in its including so many
of these individual events while still keeping a larger literary context in
mind. After all, the bar was called Dickens. The patrons loved talking about
writers. And Manhasset was "Great Gatsby" territory. One of the
book's funnier moments comes when two of Mr. Moehringer's many mentors
realize, in horror, that the Kid has never read it.
Signature Review. The Tender Bar is the story of a young man who knows his father
only as "The Voice," of a single mother struggling to make a better life for
her son, and of a riotously dysfunctional family from Long Island. But more than
anything else, Moehringer's book is a homage to the culture of the local pub.
That's where young J.R. seeks out the companionship of male role models in place
of his absent father, where he receives an education that has served him well in
his career and where, inevitably, he looks for love, bemoans its absence, and
mourns its loss.
Booklist - Keir Graff
Starred Review. Funny, honest, and insightful, The Tender
Bar finds universal themes in an unusual upbringing and declares a real love
of barroom life without romanticizing it too much.
Starred Review. A straight-up account
of masculinity, maturity and memory that leaves a smile on the face and an
ache in the heart.
A memoir about coming of age in, of all unlikely places, a great American
bar. Blessedly, Moehringer's story is both joyous and triumphant.
You'd have to go back a ways, maybe all the way to Joseph Mitchell, to
find a writer who understands bar life as well as J.R. Moehringer. The
Tender Bar will make you thirsty for that life--its camaraderie, its
hilarity, its seductive, dangerous wisdom.
Simply a wonderful book about a heaven of a life that had everything going
against it except intense love worth more than all the money in the world.
Everyone in it is incredibly alive, everyone shines, and every vice is
transformed into something glorious. If only whiskey, the heady
aroma of which floats from certain pages, gave as much pure happiness as reading
this book does.
Anne Taylor Fleming
With a newspaperman's eye for detail and a novelist's gift for narrative,
J.R. Moehringer has spun a magical memoir. The Tender Bar is touching,
raucous, and irresistible.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Mark Sheehan Manhasset Daze! JR "nailed it" with this insight into one of the most unique places on the planet. Plandome Road, and Manhasset have long been sacred grounds for the lucky few kids who got to grow up skipping the cracks in the main street concrete.... Read More
Rated of 5
by Sam Cario "Measure for Measure" a masterful memoir JR's characterizations were exceptional, you wanted to meet everyone of his bar persons.I was nostalgic when he wrote of Gilgo...the good old days. But what touched me most was the love he showed for his mother, this was truly the glue of his... Read More
Rated of 5
by Maya Brandon A Great Read Through Moehringer's honest portrayal of Manhasset, it becomes difficult to put the book down. A beautiful telling of the struggles Moehringer overcomes and those who shaped him. By the time you finish reading The Tender Bar, you'll feel nostalgic... Read More
Rated of 5
by Maya Brandon An Excellent Read Through Moehringer's honest portrayal of Manhasset, it becomes difficult to put the book down. A beautiful telling of the struggles Moehringer overcomes and those who shaped him. By the time you finish reading The Tender Bar, you'll feel nostalgic... Read More
Rated of 5
by Sarah Excellent Book!!! Absolutely one of the best books I have ever read. I couldn't stop reading and I didn't want the end to come. From the first few sentences I knew this was going to be a great read! A book that should appeal to most anyone. I can't wait to read... Read More
Rated of 5
by Chris Loved This Book - The Best! On of my favorite memoirs. Not only did you get inside J.R. Moehringer's thoughts, needs/desires, but you got inside the man that grew up. His biggest asset is his sensitivity - which you could pick up on every page - even through all of his... Read More
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,
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
lovely evocation of an ordinary
place filled with ordinary
people gives dignity and meaning
to those lost lives, and to his
The bar formerly known as Gino's, Dickens and Publicans is
now called Edisons.
It can be...
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