Last night legendary journalist and creative writer Pete Hamill read from his work at Word, an independent bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It took place in a small room down in the basement with a few peculiar odors floating near the back. There was a pile of broken-up doughnuts, a pitcher of water, and some kind of wine, probably not of a vintage served at Nobu. The lighting was bad, the speaker’s platform creaky, the folding chairs uncomfortable. But it was great. An evening to remember.
Between the covers of a book, a writer creates a unique world filled with atmosphere, characters, drama and life. And so in that room last night did Pete Hamill bring his work and an earlier day in New York City alive for the audience. Reading from S’Wonderful, a short story from The Christmas Kid, he took us inside Rattigan’s Bar and Grill to meet bus driver, Dinny Collins, and some of his guzzler pals. We overheard their gossip, learned about their wives and Wonderful Kelly, a local paragon who seems a touch too good to be true. An entire world in six pages.
You can talk about his stories, but really you need to read them. They are special and so is he. He filled the room with kindness and wisdom. He took questions from the audience and answered them with patience and humor in great detail. He spoke about writers of the past and the lessons he had learned from them. He talked about his writing habits, about libraries and the changing face of New York. He inspired us with his understanding and compassion. We all left better for having been there. Which is what great writing and great people and the great city are all about.
– Catherine Kirkpatrick