Monday, March 20, 2017


Jimmy Breslin, author and most of all, New York City reporter and columnist, died on Sunday at the age of 89.  He was the Charles Dickens of New Journalism in the 70s, a Damon Runyon who caught the color but throughout his career also championed the downtrodden in substantive ways.

He was a columnist for the New York Daily News when I was writing a half-dozen articles or so for the paper's Sunday magazine.  I worked out of the Daily News offices (and so did Clark Kent, at least when he was Christopher Reeve.) I passed Breslin in the halls and we exchanged greetings.  One of those semi-vicarious moments of feeling like journalists together.

We weren't very much alike as people, journalists, writers, but still... I just re-read one of my articles from those mid 1980s issues, on the New York Lotto game, and it had the kind of street description and interviews, plus the pov and a few low-key flourishes, for which Breslin set the standard.  He was a big personality in New York--he used to be on TV a lot--but he was rightly proudest of being a writer.

Here's a short piece on him from the New Yorker this week; Jonathan Alter's tribute in the same pub;  He was--as I was to a lesser extent--a member of an endangered species that in some senses is already extinct.  Which is not to dispute that he was one of a kind. Alter ends his piece:

There are still columnists and reporters doing great work (especially on Trump since the Inauguration), though not as many are getting out of the office and “climbing the tenement stairs,” as Breslin described the essence of his craft. But, toward the end of his life, I found him surprisingly sanguine about the chances of these human stories surviving the demise of tabloids and being told online. Were he writing now, he would be seeking out stories on the personal consequences of Trump’s health-care and budget plans. And he would tell those stories with a little more fun and a lot more rage.

 May he rest in peace.  His books live on, and his memory.

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