The New York Times bestseller and one of the 100 Most Notable Books of 2005. In the tradition of This Boy's Life and The Liar's Club, a raucous, poignant, luminously written memoir about a boy striving to become a man, and his romance with a bar.
J.R. Moehringer grew up captivated by a voice. It was the voice of his father, a New York City disc jockey who vanished before J.R. spoke his first word. Sitting on the stoop, pressing an ear to the radio, J.R. would strain to hear in that plummy baritone the secrets of masculinity and identity. Though J.R.'s mother was his world, his rock, he craved something more, something faintly and hauntingly audible only in The Voice.
At eight years old, suddenly unable to find The Voice on the radio, J.R. turned in desperation to the bar on the corner, where he found a rousing chorus of new voices. The alphas along the bar--including J.R.'s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; and Joey D, a softhearted brawler--took J.R. to the beach, to ballgames, and ultimately into their circle. They taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fathering-by-committee. Torn between the stirring example of his mother and the lurid romance of the bar, J.R. tried to forge a self somewhere in the center. But when it was time for J.R. to leave home, the bar became an increasingly seductive sanctuary, a place to return and regroup during his picaresque journeys. Time and again the bar offered shelter from failure, rejection, heartbreak--and eventually from reality.
In the grand tradition of landmark memoirs, The Tender Bar is suspenseful, wrenching, and achingly funny. A classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, it's also a moving portrait of one boy's struggle to become a man, and an unforgettable depiction of how men remain, at heart, lost boys.
Reviewed by Terry GolwayYou needn't be a writer to appreciate the romance of the corner tavern or, for that matter, of the local dive in a suburban strip mall. But perhaps it does take a writer to explain the appeal of these places that ought to offend us on any number of levels they often smell bad, the decor generally is best viewed through bloodshot eyes and, by night's end, they usually do not offer an uplifting vision of the human condition.Ah, but what would we do without them, and what would we do without the companionship of fellow pilgrims whose journey through life requires the assistance of a drop or two?J.R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, has written a memoir that explains it all, and then some. The Tender Bar is the story of a young man who knows his father only as "The Voice," of a single mother struggling to make a better life for her son, and of a riotously dysfunctional family from Long Island. But more than anything else, Moehringer's book is a homage to the culture of the local pub. That's where young J.R. seeks out the companionship of male role models in place of his absent father, where he receives an education that has served him well in his career and where, inevitably, he looks for love, bemoans its absence and mourns its loss.Moehringer grew up in Manhasset, a place, he writes, that "believed in booze." At a young age, he became a regular not a drinker, of course, for he was far too young. But while still tender of years, he was introduced to the culture, to the companionship and yes to the romance of it all. "Everyone has a holy place, a refuge, where their heart is purer, their mind clearer, where they feel close to God or love or truth or whatever it is they happen to worship," he writes. For young J.R., that place was a gin mill on Plandome Road where his Uncle Charlie was a bartender and a patron.The Tender Bar's emotional climax comes after its native son has found success as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times. On September 11, 2001, almost 50 souls who lived and loved in Moehringer's home town of Manhasset were killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. One was a bartender we've met along the way. Another was one of the author's cousins.Moehringer drove from Denver, where he was based as a correspondent for the Times, to New York to mourn and comfort old friends. He describes his cousin's mother, Charlene Byrne, as she grieved: "Charlene was crying, the kind of crying I could tell would last for years."And so it has, in Manhasset and so many other Long Island commuter towns. Moehringer's lovely evocation of an ordinary place filled with ordinary people gives dignity and meaning to those lost lives, and to his own. , a biography of Nathanael Greene.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The Tender Bar
I decided to read this book since my 13 year old son is reading for school. So glad "we" picked this wonderful memoir. He and I both enjoyed. There are many references that a younger person won't totally understand but it is a GOOD READ for all ages--although better for the over 40 age. Don't pass this one up.