Outsiders and street characters may have appealed to Mitchell because he felt like an outsider himself. He grew up in a small town in North Carolina, the son of a prosperous farmer who disapproved of his son’s chosen vocation. (“Son,” his father once asked, “is that the best that you can do, sticking your nose into other people’s business?”) As a child, Mitchell was fascinated by Biblical stories about people who, for whatever transgression or sin, had been cast out of society. This attraction to society’s outcasts would follow him to New York, but it was his hometown of Fairmont that he later credited with instilling in him an abiding appreciation for unusual characters. He once told an interviewer that he had been influenced by a pair of elderly aunts who liked to tell “horrifyingly funny” stories and take him on childhood visits to graveyards.
Monday, February 18, 2013
… Joseph Mitchell's Ear for New York : The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)