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"Old Mr. Flood" by Joseph Mitchell is what we call a lost piece of kickassery

If you wander the shelves of your library, you're gonna come across a lot of junk, because libraries rarely ACTUALLY discriminate. Their main job is to provide books to the public, which includes books the public wants to read, and sometimes the public really wants junk. Their collection — especially if you frequent a GIANT library like Harold Washington in the Chicago Loop — is probably akin to a whale sweeping up plankton and whatever other detritus comes in the way of its mouth. There's just so MUCH and you don't know what you're going to get.

om nom nom nom

I was wandering the M's this week, in search of some Nancy Mitford, when I saw this shelf of mostly Probable Trash:

Along with that SLIM VOLUME in the middle there. "Hello," said I. "You're not like the rest."

I couldn't even read the title on the spine, so I pulled it down, and immediately found this:

Oh lovely.

I tend to feel sorry for older books that might have lost readers, so I decided to give Old Mr. Flood by New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell (published 1948) a chance. And it was instantly wonderful.

It consists of three stories, all originally published in The New Yorker, about the narrator's 90-something-year-old friend, Mr. Flood, who is determined to live to 115 and prove the efficacy of a solely-seafood diet. Mr. Flood lives right by the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan, next to the docks and the Fulton Fish Market. He drinks whiskey, lives in a building with a lot of other old men who drink whiskey, and gets really excited about clams.

I wandered pretty aimlessly around New York once, and came upon this area. Parts of it are preserved enough to retain what I assume was something of the feel back then.

Joseph Mitchell is a wonderful writer. I'm going to read all of his stories. A collection called Up in the Old Hotel has over a THOUSAND ratings on Goodreads, which means everyone else knows who he is and I've just been living in ignorance.

Detail is what makes it for me a lot of the time in stories or novels, and it's a big reason why Auntie Mame is my favorite book. I also love descriptions of food, because FOOD, amirite? And this book made me want to eat oysters like nobody's business. Mr. Flood's advice to a man who thinks he's going to die soon:

"Ask the man for half a lemon, poke it a time or two to free the juice, and squeeze it over the oysters. And the first one he knifes, pick it up and smell it, the way you'd smell a rose, or a shot of brandy. That briny, seaweedy fragrance will clear your head; it'll make your blood run faster. And don't eat six; take your time and eat a dozen, eat two dozen, eat three dozen, eat four dozen. And then tip the man a quarter and buy yourself a fifty-cent cigar and put your hat on the side of your head and take a walk down to Bowling Green. Look at the sky! Isn't it blue? And look at the girls a tap-tap-tapping past on their pretty little feet! Aren't they just the finest girls you ever saw, the bounciest, the rumpiest, the laughingest? Aren't you ashamed of yourself for even thinking about spending good money on a damned doctor?"
On his retired policeman friend Mr. Cusack: 
He had a habit of remarking to bartenders that he didn't see any sense in mixing whiskey with water, since the whiskey was already wet.
JOSEPH MITCHELL, you are awesome. And you make me sad that the location of Mr Flood's apartment now looks like this:


But you kept it alive a little in your stories, and that is the greatest. Excuse me while I start venerating you.


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