Thursday, March 23, 2017

Obituary Note: Jimmy Breslin

Shelf Awareness

Legendary New York City columnist, novelist, biographer and raconteur Jimmy Breslin, "who leveled the powerful and elevated the powerless for more than 50 years with brick-hard words and a jagged-glass wit," died March 19, the New York Times reported. He was 88 and, "until very recently, was still pushing somebody's buttons with two-finger jabs at his keyboard."

Breslin's book about the first season of the hapless New York Mets--Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?--landed him a job as a news columnist with the New York Herald Tribune in 1963. Soon he was "counted among the writers credited with inventing 'New Journalism,' in which novelistic techniques are used to inject immediacy and narrative tension into the news," the Times wrote, adding: "But Mr. Breslin's greatest character was himself: the outer-borough boulevardier of bilious persuasion." He would go on to write for several newspapers in the city.

Author Pete Hamill, a former colleague, said, "It seemed so new and original. It was a very, very important moment in New York journalism, and in national journalism."

Breslin's books include the novels The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, World Without End, Amen, and Table Money; the memoir I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me; biographies of Damon Runyon and Branch Rickey, as well as The Good Rat, a book about mob culture. "Perhaps the quintessential Breslin book was The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez, published in 2002, in which he focused on the death of an unauthorized Mexican worker at a flawed Brooklyn construction site to rail against the shoddy building practices, political cowardice and racism of his beloved city," the Times noted.

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