"Long before it legally served me, the bar saved me," asserts J.R. Moehringer, and his compelling memoir The Tender Bar is the story of how and why. A Pulitzer-Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, Moehringer grew up fatherless in pub-heavy Manhasset, New York, in a ramshackle house crammed with cousins and ruled by an eccentric, unkind grandfather.Desperate for a paternal figure, he turns first to his father, a DJ whom he can only access via the radio (Moehringer calls him The Voice and pictures him as "talking smoke"). When The Voice suddenly disappears from the airwaves, Moehringer turns to his hairless Uncle Charlie, and subsequently, Uncle Charlie's place of employment--a bar called Dickens that soon takes center stage. While Moehringer may occasionally resort to an overwrought metaphor (the footsteps of his family sound like "storm troopers on stilts"), his writing moves at a quick clip and his tale of a dysfunctional but tightly knit community is warmly told. "While I fear that we're drawn to what abandons us, and to what seems most likely to abandon us, in the end I believe we're defined by what embraces us," Moehringer says, and his story makes us believe it. --Brangien Davis
Moehringer capably reads his own memoir, which takes him from a peripatetic Long Island childhood to life as a budding journalist at the New York Times. Torn between the feminine comfort of his mother and the masculine camaraderie he finds in a series of bars and taverns, Moehringer details his difficult but loving upbringing. Having lived the experiences of his book, Moehringer brings to life colorful characters, like his stuttering grandfather. His soft, deep voice complements the warmly rendered history that celebrates the oddly composed parts of his childhood, and how time spent in a series of bars carousing with father figures formed him. The uniform tone of the audiobook is hampered by the jazz noodling that appears at the beginning of each track, which interrupts the book's passage through time. Still, listening to Moehringer's soothing voice is like basking in the glow of a barroom storyteller—not the one who shouts to be heard over the din, but the one whose story is good enough to make everyone keep it down.
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J.R. Moehringer (pronounced Mo-ringer), is a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2000 for his portrait of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, an isolated river town where many descendants of slaves live and where a proposed ferry to the mainland threatened to change the community. He was also a Pulitzer finalist for feature writing in 1998 for his magazine piece "Resurrecting The Champ," which chronicled heavyweight boxer Bob Satterfield's glory days -- and his demons. J.R. has claimed many other honors, as well, including a 1997 Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Before joining the Los Angeles Times, Moehringer worked as a reporter at the Rocky Mountain News and as a news assistant at the New York Times . His first book, The Tender Bar (Hyperion), reached as high as #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
Imagine if your father disappeared before you were born--only to reappear years later as a voice on the radio. J.R. Moehringer's fascinating memoir opens with the premise that men are either good or bad--and his father is not measuring up too well. For guidance, Moehringer turns to a barroom full of neighborhood characters grafted from equal parts Saroyan, Runyan, and Buttafuoco. Considering that the ghost that haunts this story is his father's disembodied voice, Moehringer's reading is especially poignant when relating the few brief conversations he had with his deadbeat dad. Moehringer may not have gotten much from Pops, but he seems to have inherited a gift for storytelling and a voice to go with it. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine