READ IT: The Last Bar in NYC

Sunday, June 4, 2017

BY: Brian Michels

Published: April 24th 2016 by AntiStar
Genres: memoir, fiction, food & drink, alcohol
Pages: 248
Format: Kindle/Ebook
Source: I received this book from the author for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

"Thank heaven for New York City bartenders. They satisfy your boozy thirst in a strife filled life and a good one will listen to anything on your mind when no one else will. Our barman/narrator is one of the good ones. He’s been disposed under chins and elbows and cocktail napkins and ashtrays and spilled drinks for decades in New York City for countless drinkers willing to confess anything to a bar top. From one bar stool to another our barman’s raw and soulful voice delivers a metropolitan story of good times, struggle, regret and salvation - a story put together with well-known real life places, countless celebrity faces and amazing characters only found in New York City. Maybe you live in New York or simply wondered about living there. Maybe you’ve dreamed of tending a bar or owning a bar or sitting in a bar in New York City. Maybe you’ve always wanted to meet a bartender from the prohibition era who pissed into Al Capone’s beer or a horse-betting Rabbi that can explain the world order or see Mickey Mantle fall down drunk with his face buried in a filthy barroom toilet. Maybe you’re interested in a wine and beer stained, cigarette burned oak top metamorphism that will add some hardened experience to your teetotaler life. Or maybe you just have a tiny sadistic stripe and you’d like to witness what a big city, countless smokes and lots of drugs, liquor, sex, and bearing witness to the eternal under the neon glare of Times Square can do to somebody, to anybody. From 1966 and his first job in a South Bronx bar at 4 years old opening cans of beer to shining shoes in bars across the Bronx to serving booze in iconic bars and restaurants all over Manhattan our Barman spars with the life force of New York City for fifty years until last call when he’s faced with an unforeseen betrayal and is left almost broke, without a plan and nearly a hollow man. That is until he learns to forgive and luckily realize that life without warning has just begun."

First Impressions/Cover? (Because we judge the covers even though we’re ‘not supposed to’)
It was okay. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. I think it fits the book well, and portrays the colorful city life that I would think of for NYC Bars. It's a good fit. 

How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately or did it take you awhile to get into it? How did you feel reading it - amused, sad, confused, bored...? 
I had the hardest time getting into this book in the beginning, then got into it a few chapters in, then fell back off. Throughout this book I kept thinking how much I felt like I did when I read The Catcher in The Rye. I think that would very much be considered a compliment, as Catcher in the Rye is a classic and loved by many. Just as I also think is the case with this book, especially based off of the numerous amounts of 4-5 star ratings it has received. For me, and my personal taste and style, I didn’t enjoy these memoirs as much as I’d hoped I would. I really wanted to love this novel. After talking to the author and reading a couple of online interviews with him, I was sure I would love his writing style, and I did. What kept me from giving it a 4-5 star rating was that there was a lot of extra details that felt overwhelming rather than adding importance to the story. Not quite half way through reading I felt so much had already happened and I was not getting the “lead up” or mystery pulling me back in and leaving me on the edge of my seat, wondering “What’s going to happen next?”. 

What characters did you like best from the book? Why? 
As I mentioned, this book reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye, however, in that novel I couldn't stand the main character. In this memoir I thought the main character was interesting, hardworking, and funny. I enjoyed reading about his background and family history. 

Favorite/Insightful passages?
"I liked what they said because it made me feel better about pissing my pants"
Only because this made me laugh out loud while reading :-) 

Was the ending satisfying (no spoilers)? 
Referring back to what I said about having no "lead up" or suspense, there was no ending to fall back down to. Which is what I enjoy in books. However, I do enjoy reading about and have a great respect for others that can take a hard upbringing or past and make things better for themselves in the end. Having to work as a young child to help support the family and his fathers drinking & gambling, only to make something of himself, follow his dreams, and find success makes for a captivating story worth reading. 

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? 
I've had conversations with the author, but something I haven't asked that I'm curious to know is if he plans on writing any fiction novels? Because I love his writing style, I would be interested to see what he came out with that was fiction. 

Final Thoughts:
I think my opinion of this book and feeling like I was missing something is based more off of my personal style and love for thrillers than it is of Michels' writing talents. His memoir is the third that I’ve read that had similar style and flow, and I felt this same way about all of them. Perhaps I don’t enjoy memoirs as much as I thought? However, as I mentioned, I did love this author's writing style and the personality that came through in his words, and for this reason I will continue to follow this him. I look forward to seeing what he comes out with in the future, he’s someone to watch for.

What's next? 

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