Meet Mazie Phillips: big-hearted and bawdy, she's the truth-telling proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater. It's the Jazz Age, with romance and booze aplenty--even when Prohibition kicks in--and Mazie never turns down a night on the town. But her high spirits mask a childhood rooted in poverty, and her diary, always close at hand, holds her dearest secrets.
When the Great Depression hits, Mazie's life is on the brink of transformation. Addicts and bums roam the Bowery; homelessness is rampant. If Mazie won't help them, then who? When she opens the doors of The Venice to those in need, this ticket taking, fun-time girl becomes the beating heart of the Lower East Side, and in defining one neighborhood helps define the city.
Then, more than ninety years after Mazie began her diary, it's discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips, really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life.
Inspired by the life of a woman who was profiled in Joseph Mitchell's classic Up in the Old Hotel, SAINT MAZIE is infused with Jami Attenberg's signature wit, bravery, and heart. Mazie's rise to "sainthood"--and her irrepressible spirit--is unforgettable.
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An Amazon Best Book of June 2015: Jami Attenberg’s Saint Mazie couldn’t be more different from her popular The Middlesteins, in that it is a) historical not contemporary, b) loosely based on a real woman who lived in early 20th century New York City instead of on an all-too-real fictional character in suburban Chicago and c) told as an oral history instead of as a traditional narrative. Still, this novel exhibits the same kind of wit and depth and heart of the earlier one. Mazie Phillips was a depression-era movie-theater-owner in New York during the Depression; she was big-hearted and bawdy, enough of a neighborhood figure that she became the subject of a 1940 New Yorker profile by the journalist Joseph Mitchell. Starting with his observations—“Mazie has a genuine fondness for bums and undoubtedly knows more bums than any other person in the city”—Attenberg weaves an astonishingly heartfelt story of poverty and loss (one of Mazie’s beloved, orphaned sisters moves to California to become a dancer and is essentially lost to her forever), unconventionality (there’s a lot of socially “inappropriate” sex and love in this book) and, to use a word from that era, “moxie.” With all her tough talk and bootstrap-pulling, Mazie could grow into a cliché – the loose woman with a heart of gold – but Attenberg never lets her, preferring instead to take Mitchell’s sketch and draw all over it with fictional interviews and diaries until Mazie becomes a complex and irresistible real-life woman. She may have lived in a very specific era, but thanks to Attenberg, she has become a character for the ages. --Sara NelsonAbout the Author:
Jami Attenberg is the author of a story collection, Instant Love, and three novels, The Kept Man, The Melting Season, and The Middlesteins, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. It will be published in nine countries. She has contributed essays and criticism to The New York Times, Real Simple, Elle, The Washington Post, and many other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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