“Several years ago… I began to be oppressed by a feeling that New York City had gone past me and that I didn’t belong here anymore. I sometimes went on from that to a feeling that I never had belonged here, and that could be especially painful. At first, these feelings were vague and sporadic, but they gradually become more definite and quite frequent. Ever since I came to New York City, I have been going back to North Carolina for a visit once or twice a year, and now I began going back more often and staying longer. At one point, after a visit of a month and a half, I had about made up my mind to stay down there for good, and then I began to be oppressed by a feeling that things had gone past me in North Carolina also, and that I didn’t belong down there anymore, either. I began to feel painfully out of place wherever I was. When I was in New York City, I was often homesick for North Carolina; when I was in North Carolina, I was often homesick for New York City. Then, one Saturday afternoon, while I was walking around the ruins of Washington Market, something happened to me that led me, step by step, out of my depression. A change took place in me. And that is what I want to tell about.”
— From the last paragraph of “Street Life” by Joseph Mitchell in The New Yorker (Feb. 11 and 18, 2013)
Something new from the late and legendarily blocked Joe Mitchell?
The editors explain: “Thomas Kunkel, while researching a forthcoming biography of Mitchell, learned of several chapters of an unfinished memoir that Mitchell started in the late sixties and early seventies.”
So more chapters are queued up at 4 Times Square? Fans of the Fairmont native may have cause for anticipation (although only in the New Yorker would “And that is what I want to tell about” qualify as a cliffhanger).
2 thoughts on “Joe Mitchell’s homesick struggle to belong”
Reminds me of this piece on homesickness in the NYTimes, though it’s focus is more on immigrants: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/opinion/many-still-live-with-homesickness.html?sq=home%20sickness&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=all&_r=0
It was a cliffhanger, because some kind of significant change took place in him, resolving this back and forth tension between home and NYC and home and NYC and home and NYC. Sounded interesting! But there it ended. To me, a cliffhanger. I wrote in my magazine, “NO FAIR!”