Who is the tallest living New Yorker

Reports about New YorkInspired by what was once the largest city in the world

On October 25, 1929, at the age of 21, Joseph Mitchell came to New York City, then the largest city in the world. After several years as a crime reporter, he found his true calling: he switched to interviews and reports from city life. All his life he should do nothing more than talk to people and write about them.

"The only people I don't like to listen to are ladies of better society, business captains, famous writers, priests, film actors (...) and all actresses under thirty-five. The most interesting people for me, at least when it comes to conversations, are ethnologists, Farmers, prostitutes, psychiatrists and the occasional barman. The best conversations are natural, conversations from people who encourage or comfort one another, from women who stand around strollers in the sun and talk about their time in the hospital or about the entertained by rising meat prices, or by men who speak in pubs against the loneliness that afflicts us all. " (P. 14)

Masterful literary reports

Eccentrics and social outsiders were particularly dear to Mitchell's heart, and you get the impression from reading this that New York of the 1930s was teeming with them. The subjects of the reports already tell a lot about the feverish atmosphere that reigned in the city during the Great Depression: Mitchell meets striptease dancers or an Italian anarchist in exile; he traces voodoo practices in Harlem, attends marijuana parties or the church services of self-appointed gurus. He condenses these encounters into masterful literary reports that, despite their wealth of detail, remain slim and graceful. They are all permeated by a fine irony, without the author showing off his protagonists - although in view of these sometimes naive, deluded or simply crazy figures, the mockery is sometimes imposed. You can feel that Mitchell wants to do justice to his fellow men in all their imperfections. What is revealed again and again is his vital curiosity - and his charity.

"I was given permission to visit Station 2, South, but I wasn't allowed to ask any questions. A man in a bathrobe was standing in the corridor. He stared straight ahead and was trembling all over. (...) Some of the beds were barred So the men don't fall out. They have no control over themselves. Some can weave baskets. At the end of the corridor is a room where they sit and weave the baskets. Outside in the seven-acre hospital garden, the maple leaves were yellow and red dyed, children were hooting ball on Knightsbridge Road, and two young men were rowing on the blue Hudson, and inside five middle-aged men crouched around the radiators, their nerves shrieking by howling grenades, struggling with the wicker baskets. It took them hours for a job that a child can do in a jiffy. When you saw her shaky, erratic hands struggle with the willow branches, you got mad. " (P. 179)

Stunned in the face of injustice witnessed

This report from a hospital in Brooklyn where World War II veterans are vegetating is not the only text in which Mitchell's bewilderment appears in the face of injustice and inhumanity he has suffered. Another noteworthy text in this regard is his report on the execution of three murderers in an electric chair. It is true that she also begins sarcastically; the description of the many failed attempts by the convicted to kill their victim, a tenacious drunkard, reads downright bizarre. But the executions themselves are then depicted in all their severity and clinical cruelty.

"Witnesses could hear Elliott flipping the switch. It wasn't long - only three minutes. They laid the pale little man, who was still staring in front of him, on the white operating table and pushed him into the autopsy room." (P. 215)

Brookly, the Cinderella in the shadow of Manhattan

While Mitchell presents a conglomerate of diverse stories from New York, his comrade James Agee in his book joins the largest district of what was once the largest city in the world: Brooklyn, this cinderella in the shadow of its beautiful, urbane sister Manhattan. Its text begins with a quote from the great American poet Walt Whitman, and Agee's essay reads like poetry.

"You, the sick, the fragile or fertile, the healthy, the young, the living and the dead, the houses, the streets, the windows, the fabric walls of the sick cubicles, the murderous classrooms, the sooty and howling factories, the merciless birds , the animals, this godlike bridge that sings to itself day and night; in the divine, spiritless light. These are the people of Brooklyn. "

In terms of content, and that connects Agee's notes in addition to the topos New York with Mitchell's reports, you can of course notice his age in the text, but the style is timeless. They are snapshots, fragments that Agee collects about Brooklyn. A frenzy of details and minutiae that sweeps the reader away, although events only briefly glimpse his eye: the unloading of ships at the port, semi-trailers passing by, children playing in the park. Agee indulges himself again and again in the description of buildings, streets, neighborhoods. In Brooklyn, it is once said, "lives and lives", nothing more - sometimes as part of the upper middle class with their good schools, sometimes impoverished in crooked wooden huts on the edge of the peninsula. Agee has set a finely chased monument to this mundane place at the time.

"Up to the horizon, three-story yellow brick buildings with ground-level shops for knitwear and digestive products - because Brooklyn's" Downtown "is also rolled out flat to every door: and through these low houses and the almost stellar views of the avenue, an unbelievable expanse of the sky and the flat horizon and despite the paradoxically suffocating stench, a generous expanse almost like on a ranch, a calm not only of paralysis but also of the stratosphere; and so it is not surprising that a Flatbush husband thinks the air out here is much cleaner; a good one Place to raise the children. " (P. 44)

Political background

Despite Agee's erratic, Impressionist style, both the social gradient between the individual districts of Brooklyn and the political background of his time come to bear: When he was working on his notes in a guest room in the Flatbush district, the year was 1939. At one point Agee describes passing a demonstration at Brooklyn College in a young journalist's car.

"And to understand something, again around the field; in the middle of the field stood a dark group from which a speaker with a flag stood out, on the other side another such group (could they be opponents?), And the banners ; and again along the edge of the field, as close as we could, the heavy engine purring lazily, the driver babbling with hatred of Jews; (...) it was the evening before Hitler told Roosevelt that the peace would not last ten years. " (P. 35/36)

James Agee didn't live to see the late release of his Brooklyn tribute in 1968. The drinker and chain smoker had died of a heart attack 13 years earlier at the age of 45 in a New York taxi on the way to the doctor. Joseph Mitchell, meanwhile, spent most of his reporting life with the magazine New Yorker. His last article appeared there on September 26, 1964, Mitchell was 58. Although he came into his office almost every day until he was 87, his name did not appear again until 1996 New Yorker: in his obituary.

James Agee: "Brooklyn is. Southeast of the island. Travel Notes ", 10 euros,
Joseph Mitchell: "New York Reporter. From the largest city in the world ", 22.95 euros,
Both books from English by Andrea Stumpf and Sven Koch, Diaphanes Verlag