A Veteran Writer's Ode to His Favorite Watering Hole: Background information when reading Sunny's Nights

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Sunny's Nights

Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World

by Tim Sultan

Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan X
Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick
Buy This Book

About this Book

A Veteran Writer's Ode to His Favorite Watering Hole

This article relates to Sunny's Nights

Print Review

There are two fairly common ways to memorialize someone: Raise a drink and propose a toast, or pick up a pen and write a tribute. But a handful of great writers have combined those two impulses and created memorable works that lionize their favorite drinking establishments. From Dickens' historic The George Inn in London to Hemingway's celebrated Paris haunt, The Dingo, some well-known writers have occasionally turned their literary focus to the publican's art.

McSorley's Old Ale House Perhaps no writer has been more adept at capturing the decadent charm of a local watering hole than Joseph Mitchell, a New Yorker staff writer who immortalized a Greenwich Village pub called McSorley's Old Ale House in a series of articles in the 1940s and 50s – many of which were collected in a book lovingly titled McSorley's Wonderful Saloon. Mitchell's contribution to the genre of pub-licity has impacted many modern writers, including Tim Sultan, author of Sunny's Nights: "I know that meeting Sunny and coming to his bar would have reminded him of some of the things he loved in life," Sultan thinks as he returns home after attending Mitchell's memorial service in 1996.

Readers of Sunny's Nights who know Mitchell's work will detect a whiff of the elder statesman's Porter-tinged prose. Readers who don't know Mitchell are in for a treat should they drink in his work. His profiles of eclectic people and places in post-depression Manhattan are staples of the non-fiction journalism canon. He captured the romance and roguery of the city and turned a hidden New York gem into a national treasure. McSorley's, which still operates, has reportedly not redecorated since the 1940s because tourists expect to see the exact bar that Mitchell wrote about as if time has stood still.

In many way, time did stand still for Mitchell, who endured one of the most famous bouts of writer's block in history: three decades. "Joseph Mitchell famously wrote his last story for The New Yorker in 1964, and for the following thirty-some years, went to work every day, closed his office door behind him, and never published another word," writes Sultan, relating the puzzling tale of Mitchell's unproductivity. Even more puzzling to many critics and biographers is that The New Yorker continued paying him for those thirty years.

Mitchell's creative hiatus has been dissected in articles, books, and even films, with no definitive resolution. But there's no disputing the quality of his prose, a sinewy mix of reportorial candor, literary elan, and street-wise sagacity:

To a devoted McSorley customer, most other New York City saloons are tense and disquieting. It is possible to relax in McSorley's. For one thing, it is dark and gloomy, and repose comes easy in a gloomy place. Also, the barely audible heartbeatlike ticking of the old clocks is soothing. Also, there is a thick, musty smell that acts as a balm to jerky nerves; it is really a rich compound of the smells of pine sawdust, tap drippings, pipe tobacco, coal smoke, and onions. A Bellevue intern once remarked that for some mental states the smell in McSorley's would be a lot more beneficial than psychoanalysis or sedative pills or prayer.

Writing like that calls for a toast.

Picture of McSorley's Old Ale House by Leonard J. Francisci

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by James Broderick

This "beyond the book article" relates to Sunny's Nights. It originally ran in April 2016 and has been updated for the March 2018 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Big Vape
    Big Vape
    by Jamie Ducharme
    In Big Vape, TIME reporter Jamie Ducharme studies the short but inflammatory history of Juul. Her ...
  • Book Jacket: Love and Fury
    Love and Fury
    by Samantha Silva
    Mary Wollstonecraft is best known for being an early advocate for women's rights and the mother of ...
  • Book Jacket: Walking on Cowrie Shells
    Walking on Cowrie Shells
    by Nana Nkweti
    The stories in Nana Nkweti's dexterous debut collection examine the raw alienation of being ...
  • Book Jacket: The Personal Librarian
    The Personal Librarian
    by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray
    The Personal Librarian drew a robust positive response from our First Impressions reviewers, ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The War Nurse
by Tracey Enerson Wood
A sweeping novel by an international bestselling author based on a true World War I story.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars
    by Kristin Harmel

    An evocative coming-of-age World War II story from the author of The Book of Lost Names.

  • Book Jacket

    At the Chinese Table
    by Carolyn Phillips

    Part memoir of life in Taiwan, part love story—A beautifully told account of China's cuisines with recipes.

Win This Book!
Win Gordo

Gordo by Jaime Cortez

"Dark and hilarious ... singular and soaring ... Hands down, top debut of 2021."—Literary Hub

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

N Say N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.