Reviews for Tender Bar : A Memoir
Booklist Reviews 2005 August #1
/*Starred Review*/ People don't buy memoirs to read about happy families. And yet, for those who read a lot of memoirs, it can still be startling to learn both how many people have unhappy families--and how quickly we become inured to those people's pain. It's a rare writer who recollects his trials with clarity and dispassion, giving us not voyeurism but a good look at ourselves. Moehringer, raised poor by his melancholy mother, found himself looking for male role models wherever he could find them--often among the regulars at Publicans, a Manhasset, Long Island, bar that sounds a bit like Cheers with swearing. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, he recalls events as disparate as losing his virginity and getting his first newspaper job (at the New York Times) with a newsman's imperative to get the story. The reconstructed dialogue can be a bit cinematic, but that's a quibble. 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. ((Reviewed August 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2005 July #2
It takes a gin mill to raise a child--or so one might think from this memoir filled with gladness by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times correspondent.In the early '70s, grade-schooler Moehringer lived with his mother in her father's house in Manhasset, a small town 17 miles east of Manhattan that F. Scott Fitzgerald used as the setting for The Great Gatsby. Listening to the radio for his absent father (a drunken deejay), puzzled by his slovenly grandfather, the boy had no male role models until Uncle Charlie took him to the local saloon where he bartended. Moehringer evokes the sights, sounds and smells that gave Publicans (originally known as Dickens) its sodden charm: not just the beer and the fund of coins accumulating in the urinal, but the "faint notes of perfumes and colognes, hair tonics and shoe creams, lemons and steaks and cigars and newspapers, and an undertone of brine from Manhasset Bay." Sporting Runyonesque nicknames like Bob the Cop, Cager, Stinky, Colt, Smelly, Jimbo, Fast Eddy and Bobo, the bar's denizens included poets, bookies, Vietnam vets, lawyers, actors, athletes, misfits and dreamers, all forming "one enormous male eye looking over my shoulder." Moehringer captures in all its raunchy, often hilarious glory the conversations of these master storytellers, as intoxicated by words as by alcohol. Their saloon community later provided a retreat for the author following a disastrous collegiate love affair and failure as a New York Times copyboy. The 1989 death of charismatic owner Steve began Publicans' demise, but also propelled 25-year-old Moehringer into growing up, as he left his buddies behind and began his journalism career anew out West. A straight-up account of masculinity, maturity and memory that leaves a smile on the face and an ache in the heart. Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2005 May #2
Never mind that Los Angeles Times correspondent Moehringer won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for feature writing; the formative force in his life has been the neighborhood bar. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal Reviews 2005 September #1
Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize winner, Yale graduate, Harvard fellow, and national reporter for the Los Angeles Times , grew up in a bar. Specifically, Publicans, a Manhasset, Long Island, NY, bar. Abandoned by his radio host father and raised by a strong but luckless mother, he looked to the neighborhood bar for male role models. There he was taught such disparate lessons as how to throw a ball, how to bet on horses, and how to analyze a poem. His teachers were a hilarious, flawed, and diverse lot--Wall Street financiers, actors, poets, cops, bookies--and Moehringer's knack for characterization brings every one of them to life. At Publicans, the author found a home, the masculinity he yearned to assume, and eventually, the strength to leave. Just like at Cheers, everybody knew your name at Publicans. They also knew your cousin's name, your grade point average, and the best Frank Sinatra song to mend a broken heart. Highly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/05.]--Jan Brue Enright, Augustana Coll. Lib., Sioux Falls, SD [Page 142]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 June #4
You needn't be a writer to appreciate the romance of the corner tavern-or, for that matter, of the local dive in a suburban strip mall. But perhaps it does take a writer to explain the appeal of these places that ought to offend us on any number of levels-they often smell bad, the decor generally is best viewed through bloodshot eyes and, by night's end, they usually do not offer an uplifting vision of the human condition. Ah, but what would we do without them, and what would we do without the companionship of fellow pilgrims whose journey through life requires the assistance of a drop or two? J.R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, has written a memoir that explains it all, and then some. 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. Moehringer grew up in Manhasset, a place, he writes, that "believed in booze." At a young age, he became a regular-not a drinker, of course, for he was far too young. But while still tender of years, he was introduced to the culture, to the companionship and-yes-to the romance of it all. "Everyone has a holy place, a refuge, where their heart is purer, their mind clearer, where they feel close to God or love or truth or whatever it is they happen to worship," he writes. For young J.R., that place was a gin mill on Plandome Road where his Uncle Charlie was a bartender and a patron. The Tender Bar's emotional climax comes after its native son has found success as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times. On September 11, 2001, almost 50 souls who lived and loved in Moehringer's home town of Manhasset were killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. One was a bartender we've met along the way. Another was one of the author's cousins. Moehringer drove from Denver, where he was based as a correspondent for the Times, to New York to mourn and comfort old friends. He describes his cousin's mother, Charlene Byrne, as she grieved: "Charlene was crying, the kind of crying I could tell would last for years." And so it has, in Manhasset and so many other Long Island commuter towns. Moehringer's lovely evocation of an ordinary place filled with ordinary people gives dignity and meaning to those lost lives, and to his own. Agent, Mort Janklow. (Sept.) Terry Golway is city editor at the New York Observer. He is also the author of the recently published Washington's General (Holt), a biography of Nathanael Greene. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.