It’s official, I have a huge crush on Pete Hamill.
I first read his lovely Christmas story, The Gift, thirty years ago, and Downtown, My Manhattan, is a love letter to New York, the city where I was born, the city that Scott Fitzgerald wrote in My Lost City, had “all the iridescence of the beginning of the world.”
There’s Why Sinatra Matters. Sinatra’s ballads are played in the background of my life, but Pete Hamill’s tribute to the man explores the appeal in such a striking way, and makes us realize why Sinatra had such an impact on our lives. It’s a masterful portrait of Sinatra as the child of Italian immigrants, and like so many of the last century, his angry, lonely struggle to the top. Thank you, Mr. Hamill.
Tabloid City is a modern day tale that unrolls during the demise of a major newspaper, and presents the multi-cultural aspects of our city, as its characters converge violently one winter night.
Recently I bought copies of North River, Forever and Snow in August, and have become even more enamored with the voice behind these stories. Never would I have thought that the meeting in 1947 of nine-year-old Brooklyn altar boy Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsh would make for a story that is so compelling, so heartwarming, or that the relationship between a spunky Sicilian immigrant housekeeper and an aging, struggling doctor tending the poor during the 1930s
Depression years could force me to slow my reading so that I might savor the delicacy of the lovely romance. It is the voice behind these stories that is so enchanting. There is heart behind these works of art, a warm heart overriding any cynicism that might be expected in “a New Yorker”.
I have to admit that I have avoided The Drinking Life. I suppose it is the alcoholic aspects of the book, its relative sadness of the condition of alcoholism, that has kept me away. I have seen, firsthand, too many ruined lives. But, it is not about ruin; the title threw me off, I am told, and I should have known better. You can’t tell a book by its title. It is next on my list, because it is Pete Hamill’s own story, a memoir, and I want to know more about this complicated man.
For God’s sake, if you are a New Yorker, or if you’ve always been fascinated with this extraordinary city, read his books! If you haven’t at least sampled some of the writings of New York’s preeminent newspaper editor and columnist, you must do so. But beware. It’s so easy to fall in love.
Until next time,