PIECEWORK by Pete Hamill


Writings on Men and Women, Fools and Heroes, Lost Cities, Vanished Friends, Small Pleasures, Large Calamities, and How the Weather Was
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 This exemplary collection of journalism is fueled by a powerful nostalgia for a New York--and a world--that once was. Hamill (A Drinking Life, 1994, etc.) here gathers pieces that originally appeared in outlets like New York magazine, the Village Voice, and Esquire. Unlike much journalism, even the older pieces hold up to the passage of time, thanks to Hamill's gift for the right phrase and his eye for telling details. Of special interest are his observations on the New York of the 1950s; he writes with deep affection of bohemian Greenwich Village, full of characters like Joe Gould, ``who has translated Rimbaud into the language of seagulls and is writing the oral history of the world'' and the typographer Hans Hess, who ``once more insists upon the obvious superiority of Caslon over Garamond, except, of course, in boldface.'' It was a district full of bookstores and lively coffeehouses--all killed, Hamill writes, by television and its fundamentally antisocial impulse. Hamill does not reside in the past, however. His pieces on contemporary New York, police corruption in Miami, the inner workings of the drug trade, feminist censorship of pornography, and the latter-day Zapatista rebellion in Mexico show that his eyes are wide open to what is going on around him. Along the way, Hamill offers little asides on the craft of reporting. He recalls that Gene Krupa, the great jazz drummer, kept his internal metronome going by chanting ``lyonnaise potatoes and some pork chops'' to himself; Hamill took up the phrase as his own chant to coax along his battered Royal Standard typewriter. ``Even now, when a deadline is crashing upon me, I chant Krupa's mantra,'' he writes. Such artful glimpses into the reporter's daily work make this required reading for aspiring journalists. General readers will find a wealth in Hamill's pages as well.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1996
ISBN: 0-316-34104-5
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1995


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