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Two & Two: McSorley's, My Dad & Me

The New York Post recently ran an insightful feature on the history of the bar’s ownership and how McSorley’s became a second home to Rafe as he grew up at the bar alongside his father Bart, a veteran bartender at the famed watering hole. And New York Magazine’s Grub Street just ran a poignant excerpt from the book about the history of the fabled WWI wishbones, while Rafe and Bart took The Daily Beast on a VIP tour of McSorley’s Old Ale House – Food + Drink Editor Noah Rothbaum said, “Rafe has been able to capture the modern era, when McSorley’s became a landmark for drinkers from around the world in a rapidly changing East Village.” Buy Book or E-Book Here!
 
In his deeply stirring memoir TWO AND TWO, Rafe chronicles his life growing up in McSorley’s Old Ale House, New York City’s oldest Irish pub. For over 160 years, the saloon has been a safe haven for regulars and tourists, workingmen and businessmen, writers and artists, old-timers and barely legal college drinkers – and Bart Bartholmew, Rafe’s father, has been manning the taps for 40+ years. TWO AND TWO is a deeply personal story about history, family, and loss—and mostly about the love between a father and a son. Like the light and dark ales—the only two on tap at the bar—Rafe and his father are “McSorley’s version of yin and yang, the perfect balance of flavors.”
 
I don’t think we’ve seen a book this moving about the deep bond between a parent and child since J. R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar (2006), and I think you will agree that TWO AND TWO evokes the same feelings of nostalgia and longing – as well as the achingly funny moments that punctuate life.
 
Rafe Bartholomew is the author of Pacific Rims and one of the original editors of Grantland. His work has appeared in Slate, the New York Times, and Deadspin, among other publications.

Superb Praise for TWO AND TWO
“Rafe himself tended bar at McSorley’s on and off in his 20s. But inspired by his dad’s gift for storytelling, he decided to become a writer instead….With Two and Two, he follows in hallowed footsteps.”
—New York Post

“Two and Two serves as a love letter to McSorley’s most idiosyncratic conventions.”
—New York Magazine’s Grub Street

“McSorley’s is a storied bar, but its stories have rarely been this well told….In Bartholomew’s book he reminds us of [McSorley’s ] greatness, and in a real sense, our own.”
—Cahir O’Doherty, Irish Central

“The bar’s incomparable atmosphere is difficult to capture, but in his new book, Two and Two, Rafe Bartholomew does just that, providing a vivid history of the bar and a firsthand account of working there….A ‘touching, redolent memoir’ that should appeal to barflies and NYC historians alike.”
—Eric Liebetrau, Kirkus Reviews

“Few bars in America are as storied as New York’s McSorley’s Old Ale House, which dates back to 1854. No matter if you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a pint of its signature dark beer or not, you’ll enjoy Rafe Bartholomew’s memoir of his experience working at the establishment alongside his father.”
—The Daily Beast

“Two and Two: McSorley’s, My Dad, and Me is Rafe’s love letter to New York’s oldest bar, its denizens over the years, and, most importantly, his father Bart.”
—amNewYork

“[For] anyone interested in the city, beer, or the infinitely mutable ideal of ‘Old New York.’”
—Thrillist

“There is no bar in New York City—perhaps even all of America—with as much history as McSorley’s Old Ale House which opened on East 7th Street in 1854. It was a campaign stop for Abraham Lincoln, a gathering spot for Boss Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies, and a hangout for decades of artists, poets, and musicians. As a child, Bartholomew would spend magical weekend mornings at the bar with his father, playing with the mouser cat in the basement, eating hamburgers in the kitchen, and doing odd jobs. Bart never wanted to see his son behind the bar; he was a working-class kid from Ohio who’d nearly been killed by his drunk of a father and a long-suffering aspiring writer who’d never seen his literary dreams actualized. The author expertly weaves together entertaining stories from his nights behind the bar (note: never work at an Irish pub on St. Paddy’s Day) with more poignant moments between father and son. Bartholomew does both his father and McSorley’s proud with this touching, redolent memoir.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“[A] big-hearted memoir of a lifelong romance with New York City’s oldest saloon….Bartholomew chronicles this history and demonstrates how a crude, unforgiving, and extremely macho camaraderie sustained his family through suffering and loss….His description of his mother’s harrowing death from cancer jarringly shifts the register and introduces pathos and intensity that infuse the following pages. Bartholomew never ignores the darkness inherent in public drunkenness and jobs without health care or pensions, so his portrayal of the rough humor and blue-collar warmth feels completely earned.”
—Publishers Weekly

“McSorley’s Old Ale House had been a Manhattan legend for more than 100 years when the author’s father was hired on to work the taps. Son Rafe grew up loving the old man’s booze-soaked stories and learning the bar’s theory of customer relations….The nostalgia-drenched memoir makes us want to revisit the joint.”
—Booklist

“I gobbled up a galley of the wonderful young writer Rafe Bartholomew’s forthcoming 2017 memoir, Two and Two. It’s about McSorley’s, New York’s oldest saloon. I’ve tipped many a glass at that joint, hoping some of the literary magic of the great writers who once got oiled up there would rub off. It hasn’t.”
—James McBride, New York Times Book Review’s “The Year in Reading”

“Rafe’s like a brother to me. So to read this book is to discover a childhood I never knew he had (never knew any kid could have!) and a dad I can’t wait to meet. Rafe presents both with enviable, high-definition affection. This is a biography of a father and the bar that became part of his soul. It’s a memoir of a son the bar co-parented. It’s history of New York City and a sly, considered essay on masculinity. It’s a book quietly about a mythic America that simultaneously never really existed yet, obviously, totally did. Rafe’s writing, his memories, his sensitivity and sweetness made me laugh. They moved me. In my years living in New York, I never thought of a bar like McSorley’s as a bar for me. The hefty beauty and lasting surprise of this book is how it reminds me over and over that I was probably – maybe certainly – wrong.”
—Wesley Morris, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

“In Two and Two, Rafe Bartholomew has not just lovingly crafted an homage to a singular American place of drink, but also given us a steady look into the intense realm of father and son. This memoir pulses with uncommon talent.”
—William Giraldi, author of The Hero’s Body and Hold the Dark

“Rafe Bartholomew has written a smart, moving book for the inner New Yorker (and inner barfly) in all of us. His father—not to mention Old John McSorley himself—should be damned proud.”
—Tom Bissell, author of Apostle and Extra Lives

“This is more than a story about a famous speakeasy where, for the price of a beer, you can still sit at the same tables where great writers like Joseph Mitchell, Eugene O’Neil, and E. E. Cummings once sat and ruminated. This is a story about a father and son, both of whom toiled for years amidst the ghosts a hundred years past, when a group of hard working Irish Americans created one of New York’s greatest institutions with nothing more than sweat, beer, liverwurst sandwiches, and an occasional punch in the nose to all spoilers and bullies. Many a day I have sat in McSorley’s amidst the sawdust and beer and said to myself, ‘You’d have to be a child of this place to make these ghosts speak.’ And that is exactly what Rafe Bartholemew is. His is the voice of ages, the shouts of thousands of fireman, cops, soldiers, drunks, bums, wayfarers, liars, and good souls whose hard luck brought them to McSorley’s, and whose good spirit still reign over the place. He hoists this wonderful piece of Americana into the air with all the humor, joy, humility and love that it deserves.”
—James McBride, National Book Award-winning author of The Color of Water and The Good Lord Bird

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