A reader's delight by Noel Perrin

By Noel Perrin

Certainly one of America's best essayists writes approximately forty literary masterpieces which were wrongfully forgotten or have been overlooked within the first position.

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Venn-Thomas would love one, and the interpreter brings him a glass of beer and a plate of pretzels. Both the glass and the plate are beautiful hand work, and Venn-Thomas asks if they are valuable. This question baffles the interpreter. " No, no, answers Venn-Thomas impatiently. " "Money? Money went out of use long, long ago. ) It's already obvious that this future is different from any that a team of bank presidents would foresee. It becomes even more obvious when the interpreter takes Venn-Thomas into the next room to meet the five magicians.

Smollett's decency! The Victorians didn't know he had any. If Jonathan was even worse, I could hardly wait to read it. After some difficulty I got hold of a copy in the library of the New York Historical Society, and did read it. Did not find it particularly obscene (though I could see right away what upset the reviewer); did find it strikingly funny. A genuine minor masterpiece. Worthy of a spot in my display case, if I ever got to have one. I didn't. I missed by twenty years. I had been teaching at Dartmouth for only about eighteen months and had not even advanced to assistant professor when a new librarian took over.

Mitchell himself could be called a gardener in a graveyard, if that didn't make him sound much more lugubrious and much less fun to read than he actually is. In another piece called ''Up in the Old Hotel," he tells a story about Louis Moreno, the owner of a restaurant near the Fulton Fish Mar- Page 24 ket, and about the old, old six-story brick building the restaurant is in, and about a visit he and Louie make to the four long-unused upper stories. To read it is to time-travel back not only through the long history of New York City but almost clear back to New Amsterdam.

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