Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Joseph Mitchell and things

Bricks, posters, forks, insulators, menus, matchbooks, hats, jars, vacuum cleaners:

He was fascinated by architecture and building materials, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to return to the tiny Greenwich Village apartment he shared with his wife and two daughters with bricks (all the manufacturers had their distinctive signatures), or discarded posters from the Fulton Fish Market, or pickle forks from hotel dining rooms (Mitchell wound up accumulating nearly three hundred), or the colorful glass insulators from telephone and electric lines. He saved restaurant menus and matchbook covers and the tiniest of receipts, and he was a faithful member of both the James Joyce Society and the Gypsy Lore Society. He was fastidious to the point of mild eccentricity. He never went outside without his hat, even if he was taking out the trash. If that trash included discarded razor blades or the lids of opened tin cans, he wrapped these carefully and then put them into Mason jars to protect the garbage collectors from accidental cuts. He routinely dusted his extensive book collection. He also enjoyed vacuuming, so much so that, later in life, he was known to turn up at his daughter’s apartment having lugged his own Hoover onto the train.

Thomas Kunkel, Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of “The New Yorker” (New York: Random House, 2015).
A related post
Joseph Mitchell, scissors, paper clips

[This short New Yorker film shows Gay Talese wearing a hat to descend the stairs of his townhouse to an underground office. Found via Submitted for Your Perusal.]

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