As you ponder what to give someone for Christmas, are you thinking about a gift of entertainment? This year, forget about video and computer games, dvd's, itunes gift cards, and theater or movie tickets. I'm here to recommend a real book (remember? it's a three-dimensional rectangle-shaped paper product with millions of printed words and an eye-catching exterior).
This one you've never heard of. It's no best seller, and you won't see an interview on the Today show or see it chosen as an Oprah book club selection. There are no glowing reviews in People magazine. I'll bet your loved one will enjoy this one anyway, especially if he or she is a writer, a lover of stories, a true New York-o-phile, or a lover of Irishmen telling good stories (drunk or sober). Before I tell you about it, full disclosure prompts me to say that I recently learned of this book, and that the author was a distant cousin of mine.
The title? This Place on Third Avenue; The New York Stories of John McNulty, (Counterpoint Press, 2001) an enjoyable collection of short stories written for The New Yorker magazine in the 1940's by a writer who was a contemporary and friend of the New York literati of the time, such as E.B. White and James Thurber. If you know about New York writers in the early twentieth century, you will have heard of them hanging out in the Algonquin Hotel, but John McNulty's favorite hangout was an Irish bar called Costello's, "a saloon that grew up in the neighborhood, like one of the kids of the same Third Avenue block between Forty-third and Forty-fourth streets…", and described as "….dim and dusty….run in a catch-as-catch-can style, with no efficiency at all….". Costello's was a writers' mecca and rich source for the comings and goings of all kinds of colorful characters that find their way into McNulty's delightfully humorous and poignant stories. As it later became more famous and drew more uptown crowds, McNulty is credited with being the one who said of the place, "No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
The book includes, "John As He Was," a memoir by his wife, the late Faith McNulty, herself a writer, famous for The Burning Bed and many nature books. Her love and admiration shine through this honest, warts-and-all tribute to a talented man.
I found this 5-star rated paperback on Amazon. Spring for the twelve bucks and give it to someone who will appreciate it.