A link posted by the indefatigable Jim Romenesko reminded me to check in with author Thomas Kunkel, who discovered Joseph Mitchell’s unfinished memoir while researching a biography of the uniquely esteemed New Yorker writer.
Kunkel took a break from his duties as president of St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., to recall via email his impressions of Mitchell’s native Fairmont:
“I have been to Fairmont several times, but those visits were very early in my research and I am almost embarrassed to say how long ago that was.
“The place did not leave a huge impression on me, I have to say, but that was in part because I was focusing more intently on the people I was there to see — Joe’s youngest brother, Harry, for instance, and his nephew Jack, whom he was very close to.
“I come from southern Indiana, which has many similar small towns and is a big farming area, so that backdrop all felt very familiar. It was a friendly place but the sort of small town that you see today and wonder how on earth people make it. And certainly I got the sense why a creative young fellow in 1929, no matter how much he loved the place, might have been tempted by New York’s siren song. But for outsiders like Joe Mitchell gravitating to New York, there never would have been a New Yorker magazine!”
“To be honest, I regret that I hadn’t found Joe’s memoir-in-progress recollections of Fairmont before I spent time there. His memories are so vivid that I would have looked the place over again in a new light — as I may yet do.”