Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Review of The Tender Bar

I’m just going to come out and say that I really liked J.R. Moehringer’s memoir The Tender Bar. That may not be the most sophisticated way to start a review, but I’m okay with it.

This beautifully written account opens with a young J.R. growing up in Manhasset raised by his single mom and living in his grandparent’s run-down house. He glues himself to the radio, listening for his father’s voice, since he is a radio personality. Over the years, J.R. searches for men to replace his father and teach him what it means to be a man. He soon discovers the bar down the street, Publicans, where his Uncle Charlie works. J.R. becomes attached to the bar and the men who spend all of their time in it and is soon spending all of his time in it. The bar is there for him to celebrate his achievements and drown his sorrows and sometimes cause more problems. He goes back to the bar while attending Yale, while starting out at the New York Times, and for many of the major and minor events in his life.

While the memoir is ostensibly about a bar, J.R. so perfectly depicts each of the characters that it becomes about each of them. Joey D, Bob the Cop, Cager and Colt become role models and are painted as much more than just barflies. J.R. describes everything with such detail and warmth, it often feels like you could be sitting at the bar stool next to them.

While J.R. makes plenty of mistakes along the way, his story is endearing and entertaining. It is definitely up there as one of my favorites from my mom’s list.

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My Own Reading List

One DaySo this blog is obviously about the reading list my mom left behind, and I’ve really enjoyed making my way through it. As I read the books, I can’t help but try and guess what my mom would have thought of them. Still, as much as I’ve liked tackling my mom’s reading list, it hasn’t stopped me from creating my own. I just have a lot less time to get to it.

Nevertheless, here is my current to-be read list:

  • One Day by David Nicholls
  • The Tower, The Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
  • A Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
  • Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
  • A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
  • Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

This list is a mixture of recommendations, mentions by book bloggers I follow and random “That looks good!”s that I’ve come across. When I’ll fit them all in, I’m not sure. But the books aren’t going anywhere, so I’ve got time. Which is good because I’m going to need a lot of time for Freedom… it’s pretty massive!

For Love Of The Times

NY TimesSorry everyone for my glaring absence yesterday. Andrew and I were busy moving, and in between carrying a bed up many flights of stairs (Andrew) and building a dresser (Andrew), I couldn’t find the energy to blog. I didn’t even have the energy to blog about how I didn’t have the energy to blog. But you can rest assured that now I’m back, so let’s get to it…

Besides reminding me of my mom’s fondness for Bud Light, J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar has also brought to mind another of my mom’s loves: The New York Times.

My mom shared with J.R. a great admiration for the paper. Many, many, many years after leaving New York, my mom still coveted the Sunday Times. She got a copy from our neighbors and it was also a treat for when she visited me. Not only did she enjoy the stories (The Sun-Sentinel just can’t compare), but she was a whiz at the crossword puzzles. Seriously, her New York Times crossword puzzle skills were legendary.

Funny, I never would have thought that a memoir about a bar would bring so many memories of my mom.

The Tender Bar Gets Cinematic?

The Tender BarSo far I’m really enjoying J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar. It’s getting me through the madness of packing up my life to move. Of course, whenever there is a book I like (or don’t like actually) there’s usually a movie to go along with it. What can I say, Hollywood isn’t so creative.

The Tender Bar, though, isn’t a movie… yet. However, Scott Rudin bought the film rights back in 2005. You might know Scott Rudin as the producer of such films as Julie & Julia, Revolutionary Road, There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, just to name a few of his most recent work. Wikipedia also tells me he is working on an adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, another book I have to read, so he’s very involved in Robin’s Reading List.

Still, no movie exists yet. IMDB doesn’t even have The Tender Bar listed as a movie in development, making me doubtful it’s happening anytime soon if at all. So, while I would love to share a trailer with you, I can’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with a book trailer for The Tender Bar… a very unofficial book trailer. Oh, the things you find on YouTube. Enjoy!

My Mom’s Drink of Choice

Mom and Dad ToastingReading J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar, a book centered around a bar, naturally leads to thoughts of drinking. Not in a this-book-is-so-bad-I-have-to-drink-to-get-through-it kind of way though. More in an all-this-talk-of-drinks-makes-me-want-one kind of way.

Which brings me to my mom’s drinking habits. My mom got a late start to the whole drinking thing. She once told me she’d never been drunk. I’m still not sure I believe that one, but she certainly gained more of an affinity for alcohol later in life. And what was her drink of choice? Bud Light.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances of her discovery (Dad, help me out here?), but I do know I received a call one day from her declaring that she had finally found a drink she liked.  Oh Bud Light, it’s cheap, it’s light and it tastes almost like water, which I think she took to be a positive. Wine gave her heartburn. Other drinks were too strong. Bud Light, though, was just what she wanted.

And you know what, I’m with her on that one. At any bar Bud Light is my go-to drink. But I think that has less to do with the similarities between my mom and I and more to do with my very limited budget for New York. Either way, it’s yet another thing that connects us.

Next Up: The Tender Bar

The Tender BarI recently showed a friend this blog for the first time and the title that popped out at her from the list was The Tender Bar, a memoir by J.R. Moehringer. She told me she’d heard it was good. Well, that was a good enough reason for me to make it next in the queue.

At this point, my selection process for which books to read when has gotten more and more random. At first, I looked for the books that interested me the most, but now my attitude is that I’m going to read them all eventually so it doesn’t really matter the order. I didn’t even read The Tender Bar’s description before downloading it to my Kindle. In fact, I didn’t even really read the description until just now when I decided to post it here. So, we can read it together:

A moving, vividly told memoir full of heart, drama, and exquisite comic timing, about a boy striving to become a man, and his romance with a bar. J .R. Moehringer grew up listening for a voice: It was the sound of his missing father, a disc jockey who disappeared before J.R. spoke his first words. As a boy, J.R. would press his ear to a clock radio, straining to hear in that resonant voice the secrets of masculinity, and the keys to his own identity. J.R.’s mother was his world, his anchor, but he needed something else, something more, something he couldn’t name. So he turned to the bar on the corner, a grand old New York saloon that was a sanctuary for all types of men-cops and poets, actors and lawyers, gamblers and stumblebums. The flamboyant characters along the bar-including J.R.’s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; Joey D, a soft-hearted brawler; and Cager, a war hero who raised handicapping horses to an art-taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fatherhood by committee. When the time came for J.R. to leave home, the bar became a way station-from his entrance to Yale, where he floundered as a scholarship student way out of his element; to his introduction to tragic romance with a woman way out of his league; to his stint as a copy boy at the New York Times, where he was a faulty cog in a vast machine way out of his control. Through it all, the bar offered shelter from failure, from rejection, and eventually from reality-until at last the bar turned J.R. away. Riveting, moving, and achingly funny, The Tender Bar is at once an evocative portrait of one boy+s struggle to become a man, and a touching depiction of how some men remain lost boys.

I started it on the plane this past weekend and I’m already hooked.

A Review of The Book of Dahlia

Book of DhaliaI finished Elisa Albert’s The Book of Dahlia and I’m not quite as depressed as I thought I would be considering it’s about a young woman with terminal brain cancer.

Maybe it’s because the book is kind of depressing in a way that has nothing to do with Dahlia’s brain cancer. It seems Dahlia’s life went off track well before the tumor invaded her body. It all started off well though… two loving parents and an older brother who doted on her. But soon her self-centered mother abandons the family to return to Israel and “find herself,” her loving father becomes increasingly pathetic, and her brother completely hardens and turns away from his family, including the sister he adored.

It’s clear through flashbacks of her life that Dahlia is damaged. She can’t maintain one healthy relationship and she has no idea what she wants to do with herself besides smoke pot and spend her dad’s money. And, after years of trying to worm her way back into her brother’s heart, she’s cultivated a hatred she holds on to until the very end.

These are the tragedies of Dahlia’s life even before the tumor takes hold of her. Even then, she is not your normal fictional sick character. There is no positivity, little forgiveness and not a whole lot of change in attitude. And this is what I liked about the book. Dahlia is an anti-heroine. She’s not mushy and she’s hard to sympathize with sometimes… most times. Her tone, as narrator of her own story, is sarcastic, funny and very hipster.

Dahlia is often unlikable, but her story is engaging and unlike most cancer books. Certainly different than the Lurlene McDaniel novels about terminal illness I read as a child (strange, I know). While I can’t quite picture my mom enjoying the profanity-laced, inappropriate sex-filled stream of consciousness journey into Dahlia’s messed up life, but it was certainly an interesting spin.