The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer


The end of summer reading has come.   I’ve finished eight books and one movie and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Here’s the last of my book reviews for this summer.  It’s… another memoir! 

Born in Manhasset, New York, J.R. Moehringer was the son of a violent, volatile radio DJ (known as “The Voice”) and his young, naive but loving mother, Dorothy.  His mother left his father when J.R. was just a baby after he threatened to kill her.   Nice dad.

J.R. and his mother, due to monetary difficulties, had to move back to Dorothy’s parent’s house.   (Also know as “the shit house” because of its ratty condition.  Dorothy’s father was passive aggressive and decided not to keep up his house to spite the rest of the world.  Nice grandfather). 

Between his grandfather’s incessent verbal abuse towards his grandmother, the knowledge that his own father was a loser and the realization that NO man in his family was worth a darn, J.R. looked to other men for guidance.  He found them at the local bar where his Uncle Charlie was a bartender.

The men at Publicans bar adopted J.R. as one of their own.  They taught him all sorts of useful stuff like how to gamble, drink and sit in a bar for hours at a time without falling off the bar stool.  If you ever watched the show “Cheers”, you can pretty much imagine the life at Publicans – the usual suspects were there every day.  Nice role models.

J.R., a bright and driven albeit worrisome youth, has aspirations to go to Yale and become a lawyer.  After almost flunking out of Yale, J. R. goes on to graduate and work for the New York Times.  Here’s where things went downhill.

After listening patiently to six discs of this book on my car stereo in all types of traffic, J. R. became downright annoying.  He couldn’t leave his two-timing girlfriend or his dead-end copy-boy job.  He also started drinking.  A lot.  By the end of the tenth disc, I was ready to knock some sense into J.R.’s whiny, self indulgent head.   

Mercifully, J.R. eventually moved away from New York and admitted to himself that he had a drinking problem.  He became a journalist in Colorado and used his God-given brains and intelligence for something besides small talk at the local pub. 

The story ends with him going back to New York after 9/11 to attend several painful funerals of loved ones and friends lost in that tragedy.  We’re left to believe that J.R. finally became the kind of man that he wanted to be.

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer confirmed something that I have suspected for a long time – I vote myself least likely to become an alcoholic. 

The thought of sitting in a smoky bar hour after hour gave me a pounding headache, not to mention my disbelief regarding the incredible amount of money that was spent on booze.  It was a glimpse into a world that I didn’t really didn’t have any desire to be a part of.

Despite all that, like “The Glass Castle“, it’s always interesting to read stories of people who survived difficult odds to become successful.  I just wish that I hadn’t been so frustrated with the main character along the way.


4 thoughts on “The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

  1. You seriously need to read some more uplifting books! Have you read An Abundance of Katherines by John Green? It’s teen fiction, a mega easy read, and one of the funniest laugh-out-loud books I’ve read ever. You should treat yourself to something fun!

    • My goodness – such negativity. Well, Laurie, since I took the time to put my opinions in writing, why don’t you do the same? Exactly WHAT did you like about this book? Why did you love it? Remember – it’s YOUR opinion. That’s what literature is all about. By the by, when you reply on blogs, please be more polite. Telling people to go away, especially on their own blogs is rude. What are they teaching you in that Catholic school anyhow?

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