Book info

The Tender Bar (2006)

The Tender Bar (2006)
Rating
3.91 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
0786888768 (ISBN13: 9780786888764)
languge
English
genre
publisher
hachette books
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The Tender Bar (2006)
The Tender Bar (2006)

About book: This is an incredibly honest book by an incredibly good story teller. JR grew up with an absent father and ended up with many "fathers", and one enormously strong and dedicated mother. I, too, grew up with an absent father and an enormously strong and dedicated mother so I could relate to much of his emotional upheaval at times. My heart was breaking when his father didn't show up after telling him he would be there to take him to a baseball game. During my reading of this book, I also saw a half-hour interview with him on the internet and I enjoyed that as much as the book. He was articulate, charming, forthright, well-spoken, and his voice was as pleasant as he describes his father's. My one wish for this book would have been PICTURES!! I even scoured the web looking for pictures of his Publican "fathers" (Uncle Charlie, Bob the Cop, Joey D, Cager, Smelly, FmeBabe, Colt, Bobo, Steve, Fast Eddy, General Grant), McGraw, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Ruth and especially Dorothy, his mother. He dedicated his book to his mother - wouldn't it have been great to see that wonderful woman's picture?! This is a book I won't soon forget! I read this review that I found so insightful, from someone called "Pomperation" on June 11, 2008:"The less than 5 star reviewers are not understanding this story. JR's memoir is not about a bar, not about avoiding a life of achoholism, not about whining over misfortune, and not about overcomming childhood challenges. The real story here is sharing boldly and courageously what it is like to grow up fatherless. JR speaks for all of us men who grew up without fathers and his medium is great storytelling. While "growing up" we really were always searching for the right templates for manhood. We would grab ahold of anyone who paid attention! That could be good and that could be bad, but fortunatly for our author, the men at the bar were ultimately a good influence, not all of them as career path role models, but certainly as "man models" and that is what was needed. It is impossible (no criticism) for individuals who grew up with a father to empathize. This is not whining, it is just plain being honest and sharing what it is like. JR's memoir resonates with all of us "fatherless boys" and he must be reviewed from that perspective. For those of you who would like to know what goes through our minds and our orientation to the world, this is great primer/story. BRAVO JR."

I first heard about this memoir from a male acquaintance who raved about the portrait it painted of a fatherless boy becoming a man under the tutelage of a handful of characters who frequented a pub down the street from his home. And the book did start off promisingly enough, with an overview chapter that demonstrated the author knew something about how to construct a sentence and intriguing teasers for events in the coming pages. I hadn't gotten very far into the author's descriptions of his unarguably challenged childhood, however, before I came close to abandoning the book altogether. I've read quite a few memoirs, including many that describe childhoods even worse than this author's, but I've never encountered one with such an overarching tone of self-pity, and I wasn't sure I could stand 400+ pages of that.The book became less maudlin as he grew older, however, and replaced that victim-of-circumstances tone with a more insightful victim-of-his-own-bad-choices tale. There are moments in the telling of that tale that do shine - he can be funny at times, and I did get a better sense of what the foreign (to me, anyway) world of bar culture can be like. Ultimately, though, I finished this book feeling like the author did not succeed in telling the story he wanted to tell. Bars are full of yarns and he relates some good ones, but they are not linked together in a very coherent way. He also has a bit of a focusing problem, spending too long on events that aren't that rich while leaving other enormous topics (like alcoholism) almost entirely unmined. In one section of the book, the author talks about his failed attempts to write a novel about the bar that became his adopted home. I can't help but wonder if he had stuck with that project if he might ultimately written a better book, one with more discipline and insight. As it stands, he is too captive to his own nostalgia to have made the world he loved accessible to those of us not already familiar with it.
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Reviews
Jody Julian
"I used to say I'd found in Steve's bar the fathers I needed, but this wasn't quite right. At some point the bar itself became my father, its dozens of men melding me into one enormous male eye looking over my shoulder, providing that needed alternative to my mother, that Y chromosome to her X".--JR Moehringer, pg. 9 of prologue I keep saying this memoir reminded me of an American version of Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes". However, it's the essence more than the actual details that brings me to say that. It's that unremitting search for identity from a young boy's eyes, along with the piercing earnestness of that all consuming journey as they come of age in a world where early on, the cards are stacked against them. Both authors have this almost magical ability to shapeshift the reader into their lives, laughing and crying beside them. JR Moehringer wrote a book that not only gives tribute to 'the bar that raised him' but to the mother that sacrificed much of her own life for the sake of her son's. I'd never understood the lure of 'the bar' and the regulars that go there, other than possibly in the tv sitcom "Cheers".JR not only gave me an inside look at both the glory and tragedy of his hometown's bar but humanized it in such a way that I'll never look at a bar or its customers in the same way again. The regulars become family no matter how disparate. Wherein I once thought that people who went to a bar every day were hard core alcoholics, I now stand corrected for my harsh judgements. Granted, alcoholism is prevalent but that's only a small part. The local bar becomes a place where men and women go to bare their hearts, let down their daily facades, and stave off loneliness. More than anything though, JR's memoir has heart--like the Red Sox despite their repeated losses. You can't stop rooting for him, even when it looks like there's nothing left.It's sometimes hilarious, other times heart breaking but consistently honest in it's unflinching look at the imperfections of being human. It's the Velveteen Rabbit who happens to go to a bar everyday. No matter what, it's a love story to humanity. That's my hokey phrase of the day and I blame it on this book. Read it and you'll see why it's so easy to be this sentimental.
Becky
i found this to be a memoir with a lot of heart but little literary value. what moehringer does very well is create a vivid atmosphere, using dialogue in particular to paint a picture that you can easily imagine as if you were in the room with him. i read in a separate review that the most interesting thing about the author is the people he knows - and it's true, the characters in this book are very colorful and tend to overshadow moehringer's self-absorbed drama. another reason to enjoy the book was the pure feel-good-ness of the story: the author faces obstacles (daddy issues, unrequited love, alcoholism, bad life choices in general), he overcomes them, and you can't help but find yourself cheering for him. you also wish you could be a part of the in-crowd at the bar of the book's title, the place the author returns to at the end of what seems like every day of his young life.however, all memoirs are always pretty hit-or-miss with me because of the structural problems they inevitably pose. if you want to write a story about your life, you need to sift through all the infinite events that you could possibly include in order to come up with a narrative that is thematically coherent. moehringer is only moderately successful at this. i was especially disappointed that he gave such short shrift to his struggles with alcoholism later in life and how he ultimately sobered up. much more time is wasted on cliched descriptions of his first relationship, which we know is obviously going to fall apart. my last criticism has to do with writing style. i'm not entirely sure how moehringer manages to simultaneously sound like he's trying too hard and yet also like his target audience is the dumbed-down drunkards at his cherished bar.one last note: as someone who went to harvard, i'd like to point out that moehringer's repeated descriptions of yale as "the best school in the country" are just factually incorrect. :)
Allison
Not a bad memoir; not particularly gripping, but very vivid in its way of person-description-by-storytelling. Probably the least "woe is me, I'm a drunk" and most interesting "look how I became a reporter for Times" book out there. And still, it became rambly. About two-thirds of the way through, I wondered why so many pages remained and what Moehringer could possibly have left to tell me that was so darned important. I hate when the story seems over and the book keeps going. Of course, I claim to hate when the story seems UNfinished and the book ends more, but I suppose that's a much better way to end a book--leave the reader wanting. Always a good sign for the author, anyway.I could easily see The Tender Bar becoming a cult classic within reading groups, but it didn't blow me away. What can I say--I'm a tough audience. I'd recommend this one more strongly to males, particularly the intellectual types. It's about male-bonding, after all, and I imagine many of them would relate to the issues Moehringer explores.
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