A while ago I wrote a series about authors who do not disappoint and through sheer negligence I forgot to include Jimmy Breslin.
My introduction to Breslin’s work was a column in a New Tork paper where some police officers on New Year’s Day were totalling up the number of homicides for the past year.
There was a guy who got stabbed around eleven o’clock on December 31 and died around 2 a.m. on January 1. The discussion was about which year to assign that murder to.
One of the policemen says it’s like when a basketball player takes a shot before the buzzer and then it goes in after. That’s Breslin’s touch. It’s like Patrick Ewing’s finger roll.
In one of his books, maybe Forsaking All Others, a guy in New York gets in a fight with his wife and goes out on the front porch and lights a cigarette and then you pan down the street and see this line of tiny illuminations on all the front porches. He is just plain brilliant.
I think it’s World Without End, Amen where one character goes to Northern Ireland during the British occupation and the reader gets a really perceptive view of that unhappy time.
But I think Breslin’s masterwork is Table Money. It’s about an alcoholic New York City policeman. If you’re looking for a really good read I absolutely guarantee this work will not disappoint you.
If you know or are an alcoholic you will see a lot of familiar themes treated with the kind of insights that can only come from experience.
Jimmy Breslin, as a writer, reminds me of Curly Howard, as a comedian, rolling around on the floor in the Three Stooges movies: he gives his all, throws himself into it completely.
In Table Money there’s this priest employed by the city who checks the records of policemen to see which ones are out on Monday, and this priest zeroes in on the main character, and after a number of episodes, gets him to go into rehabilitation.
The policeman arrives at the rehab center and learns that there is a two-hour wait, and he spies a liquor store in the distance and decides to have one last go.
So he treks out over the highway through the swamp and gets his fancy shoes all muddy and climbs up the embankment and over the guardrail and goes into the liquor store where he meets… (of course) the priest, who says something like, “All drunks are alike.” And, of course, far from being contemptuous, he includes himself in this remark.
Jimmy Breslin’s books are great reading.