RAFE BARTHOLOMEW discusses his memoir TWO AND TWO

Two and Two (Little, Brown and Company)

McSorley’s Old Ale House is not just a bar—it’s a home to all walks of life that has stood the test of time. For over 160 years, since 1854, the saloon has been a safe haven for regulars and tourists, workingmen and businessmen, writers and artists, old-timers and barely legal college drinkers. It has witnessed the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, Prohibition, the September 11th attacks, Hurricane Sandy.  It was even the subject of a Supreme Court decision—famously a men only pub, the bar finally allowed access for women in 1970 after the Court’s decision!

In Two and Two, Rafe chronicles his life growing up at McSorley’s—a place where tradition is not just implemented for nostalgia’s sake, but is a vital component of the lifeblood. McSorley’s patrons read like a Who’s Who of 20th century icons, including Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt and John Lennon.  Today, you might spot Mick Jagger, Matt Damon, Kevin Spacey or even Leo DiCaprio there. Two ale pours, sawdust-strewn hardwood floors, and the company of good folks are always to be expected when one crosses the threshold of McSorley’s—and these were the things that Rafe came to look forward to when he was just seven years old.

Bestselling author James McBride (a long-time patron of McSorley’s) who praised “wonderful, young writer Rafe Bartholomew’s forthcoming memoir” in the New York Times Book Review’s Year in Reading  said, “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 Bartholomew 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.” 

Rafe’s father Bart, a poet and bartender extraordinaire, strove to be a better man than his own abusive father and that he did. They also went through losing Rafe’s mom to cancer together.   Rafe was always protected and loved and knew that the pub was a natural extension of his home. The pub also became his library—a history lesson on Irish immigration as he inspected the photographs hanging from the walls, an anthropological study on the interactions between thirsty patrons and a gruff wait staff and an etiquette course in the gift of gab. The walls of the pub are living history—with memorabilia dating back to the turn of the century.

In Two and Two, Rafe expertly pours over his and his father’s legacy in one of the last vestiges of a world that is quickly vanishing—that of old New York.  As to why people still flock to McSorley’s after all these years, Bart has the answer: “People can buy a mug of ale for cheap all over the city. They come to McSorley’s because it still feels real.”  

Praise for Two and Two 

“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

“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 Bartholomew is the author of Pacific Rims. His writing has appeared in GrantlandSlateThe New York Times, the Chicago ReaderDeadspin and other leading online and print publications. His stories have twice been honored in the Best American Sports Writing series. 

Event date: 
Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Two and Two: McSorley's, My Dad, and Me Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316231596
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: Little Brown and Company - May 9th, 2017

Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball Cover Image
ISBN: 9780451233226
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: Berkley Books - June 7th, 2011