I wanted to find a copy of a collection of short stories from the New Yorker about New York. It’s an older book, but it’s not out of print. Nevertheless, I couldn’t find it at any of the bookstores I tried while I was in New York.Instead, a kindly bookseller directed me to this book. It turned out to be exactly the type of book I was seeking. It’s a collection of pieces that Joseph Mitchell wrote about odd New Yorkers he ran across in his work as a journalist during the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties. It is actually a book within a book, in a recently published collection of out-of-print books by Mitchell, titled Up in the Old Hotel.I was fascinated by a little story that I discovered about Mitchell that I ran across while researching his life further. Mitchell interviewed a down-and-out fellow back in the thirties who claimed to be writing an enormous book, compiled in many volumes, about New York that consisted solely of conversations the fellow had had with people he met. A number of literary figures befriended this fellow over the years. Many years later, in the sixties, after the fellow passed away, Mitchell searched for the volumes of the book and he was dismayed to discover that the book was a figment of the fellow’s mind, that nothing had ever been written. After writing this piece, Mitchell never wrote another word for publication, though he went into work every day for many years.