Born: 27 July 1908
Died: 24 May 1996 (cancer)
Birthplace: Near Iona, North Carolina
Best known as: Author of "Joe Gould's Secret"
Joseph Mitchell was on the staff of The New Yorker magazine for nearly 60 years, from 1938 until his death in 1996. He specialized in plainspoken essays about gypsies, oystermen, bartenders and other colorful New York characters. His best-known subject was Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village derelict who claimed to be writing a magnum opus titled "An Oral History of Our Times." (Mitchell first profiled Gould in the 1942 essay "Professor Sea Gull"; in 1964 he wrote a follow-up piece, "Joe Gould's Secret," revealing that Gould's book had been a sham.) Collections of Mitchell's essays include McSorley's Wonderful Saloon (1943), The Bottom of the Harbor (1960) and Up In the Old Hotel, a 1992 retrospective which renewed interest in Mitchell's work.
Extra credit: After completing "Joe Gould's Secret" Mitchell suffered a legendary case of writer's block: he continued to go to his New Yorker office until his death, but never completed another article for the magazine... Actor Stanley Tucci played Mitchell in the 2000 movie Joe Gould's Secret, with actor Ian Holm as Gould.
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