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Lusting After Literary Loves: Nick and JR

By Eileen P. Duggan

Originally posted February 14, 2012

Nick and JR have enthralled me — while simultaneously beating me down — with their prose, their prowess, their proficiency.

Nicholas Weinstock and JR Moehringer are my current favorite contemporary authors, my literary lustees, my vocabularian valentines. They are not yet household names, like Hemingway, King or J.K. But they could be.

Their writing is so eloquent, so fluid, so full of the perfect phraseology (you don’t mind if I say phraseology, do you, JR?) it makes me, as a writer, want to put down my pen and say, “I’m out.”

Did I mention that their book jacket photos make both of these men look like matinee idols? Yummy.

JR Moehringer’s memoir, The Tender Bar, spins his story of growing up under the fatherly tutelage of the men who populated a neighborhood bar in Manhasset, New York. The book — a true story written in novelistic style — was a best seller when it broke in 2005, and for good reason. But I just read it last month (OK, so I’m about six years behind on the latest books). Male coming-of-age stories don’t usually interest me, but this one was an addicting page-turner. It’s a get-up-early-on-Saturday-morning-to-read story, a book that entices one to sneak in a page during commercials — oh hell, forget the TV show, just read two more chapters. I cheered JR’s successes, ached over his failures and heartbreaks and puzzled over some of his choices — more than once I was inclined to groan at the book, “No, JR! What are you thinking?”

Nicholas Weinstock’s novel, The Golden Hour, found me via, of all places, the Dollar Tree, which is a travesty. (Yes, the price tag was $1.) Such fine writing should not be relegated to the literature shelf of Dollar Tree, along with large-print puzzle books and cheap pocket-size Bibles. Not that I don’t love Dollar Tree for its bargains. Fortunately for me, this book was not just a bargain, but a true find. The Golden Hour follows a burned-out Manhattan investment banker, Bill, through the aftermath of some type of marital and/or work-related meltdown, which only becomes clear in fits and starts over the course of the story. He’s left his job and moves to a summer home in rural New York state, where he falls into a gig as a volunteer firefighter. Through his bonding with the firefighters, Bill gradually regains his equilibrium and finds himself  — after a number of both serious and humorous mishaps.

The two books have a common theme. Both the fictional Bill and the real-life JR are seeking the meaning of manhood and how to achieve it or retrieve it.

Both books are hilarious and poignant. Both are so enchantingly written, I found them irresistible — and that goes for their authors, too.

I yearn to wield my vocabulary, such as it is, like JR does. I despair of ever crafting descriptive passages like Nick does. I envy their mastery in weaving the words, phrases and passages into compelling and humorous tales.

I long for their talent, I envy their skill, I lust for them  — literarily, of course. But I wouldn’t mind meeting them. Again I say: Yummy. And I’m just three degrees of separation from JR. I know St. Louis’ KMOX-AM radio talk show host Charlie Brennan, who was once on-air partners with McGraw Milhaven, who is JR’s cousin and figures prominently in The Tender Bar. Milhaven now hosts a show on KTRS-AM in St. Louis.

I can dream, can’t I?


The Tender Bar  (Hyperion, 2005),

The Golden Hour  (William Morrow, 2006),

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