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 barJ .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.
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"Long before it legally served me, the bar saved me," asserts J.R. Moehringer, and his compelling memoir The Tender Bar is the story of how and why. A Pulitzer-Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, Moehringer grew up fatherless in pub-heavy Manhasset, New York, in a ramshackle house crammed with cousins and ruled by an eccentric, unkind grandfather. Desperate for a paternal figure, he turns first to his father, a DJ whom he can only access via the radio (Moehringer calls him The Voice and pictures him as "talking smoke"). When The Voice suddenly disappears from the airwaves, Moehringer turns to his hairless Uncle Charlie, and subsequently, Uncle Charlie's place of employment--a bar called Dickens that soon takes center stage. While Moehringer may occasionally resort to an overwrought metaphor (the footsteps of his family sound like "storm troopers on stilts"), his writing moves at a quick clip and his tale of a dysfunctional but tightly knit community is warmly told. "While I fear that we're drawn to what abandons us, and to what seems most likely to abandon us, in the end I believe we're defined by what embraces us," Moehringer says, and his story makes us believe it. --Brangien DavisAbout the Author:
J.R. Moehringer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2000, is a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and a former Niemann Fellow at Harvard University. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
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