Joseph Mitchell (1909-1996) was a journalist best known for his work in the New Yorker. He also published five books, one of which is “Joe Gould’s Secret.” The book is two articles about Joe Gould, one written in 1942, the second in 1964. Reading the book one realizes why Mitchell is still revered as a great writer and journalist.
He wrote about the eccentrics in New York City and Joe Gould qualifies.
Gould, Harvard educated, was a bum, living on handouts from friends, including E.E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, and other writers and artists. They all thought Joe was working on his epic oral history that he said was well over one million words.
At the risk of giving away something about the book-you should read it anyway for the great writing and the portrait of Joe Gould- Mitchell wrote the following:
“I began to feel that it was admirable that he hadn’t (author’s italics) written it. One less book to clutter up the world, one less book to take up space and catch dust and go unread from bookstores to homes, to second-hand bookstores and junk stores and thrift shops to still other homes to still other second-hand bookstores and junk stores and thrift shops to still other homes ad infinitum.”
Yes, that is the life of a book. But though I admire Mitchell, if you love books, is it not the more the merrier. Granted there are so many writers, so many books, that it can be overwhelming with choices and certainly there are undiscovered writers you feel you would love if only you could find them. But that is the joy isn’t it. The search for writers, the search for books is an expedition and I have found many treasures at second-hand bookstores, at junk stores, at yard sales, at library sales, and thrift shops.
But Joe Gould did write something, but to learn what, you must read Mitchell’s book.
Other books by Joseph Mitchell that you can learn abut at Amazon: