Drinking with Men, by Rosie Schaap
Review by Wendy Hudson
Right out of the gate, here’s my disclaimer: This reader is biased.
The three reasons I poured right in to NYT Times columnist, NPR contributor, and Brooklyn bartender Rosie Schaap’s memoir are as follows:
She’s coming for the Nantucket Book Festival - perhaps lured in part by our “Authors in Bars” session.
As a co-founder of Cisco Brewers, I am quite a fan of libations and their power to bring people together.
Much as I love a good beer, I love a good bar even more. The guys at the Chicken Box would tell you the same about me.
Clearly I was inclined to like this book, and like it I do, very much. Importantly though, Rosie is not only a skilled drinker and bartender--she writes beautifully and evocatively about the bars she has adopted and which have adopted her. The book proceeds as a series of episodic chapters centered around different phases of her life, during which Rosie comes to take on a local bar as more home than home and its people as her chosen family.
If you’ve ever been part of such a place, you’ll love the way the author captures the spirit of the joints, and you may even add the ones that are still around to your to-do list for the next time you find yourself in New York. If you haven’t been part of this world you’ll get a good taste of its merits, but rest assured you won’t lose your day job: Rosie’s calculation of the 13,000 hours she’s spent in bars sounds a probably appropriate cautionary note. Good thing we know her professional life proceeds admirably in parallel to her social one.
Like my favorite memoir of similar theme, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, this book is best when exploring the characters involved and the art of bar wit and conversation. (She has excellent pub etiquette rules that I sure wish more people would follow.) A couple of times throughout I found myself thinking there were a few more personal details than I was interested in hearing, but I guess that’s the thing about your new bar friends--you have to accept the whole package.
On Nantucket the bar and restaurant world are integral, and a little more understanding in our culture would be a good thing. Read this book with an eye to its themes of identity, loneliness, acceptance, and belonging... especially important on an island. Of course neither Rosie Schaap nor I are advocates for alcohol as a cure-all, but it sure is a quick ticket to friendship and that can’t be a bad thing.
Restaurant Friends, please snap this up, pass it around, and get cracking on recording your own tales. We know they’ll be good.
Drinking with Men is available now at Nantucket Bookworks and here.