“He’s Irish, and He Broods Easy”

John McNulty and the Irish Cohort at The New Yorker
  • Jack Morgan
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


Yogi Berra’s line “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” is well known. Except that it isn’t Yogi’s line, but rather a piece of dialog from one of John McNulty’s Third Avenue New Yorker sketches, an example of the kind of intriguingly askew pub talk of which McNulty was a delighted, avid recorder (4).1 The quotation in the title of the present chapter — ”He’s Irish and he broods easy” — is another example of his drawing from overheard conversations. James Thurber remarked on McNulty’s “intense and endless fascination with the stranger in the street, the drinker at the bar and the bartender behind it…” (9–10). Once a New York waiter commented to McNulty upon the establishment’s busiest periods of the day, concluding with the qualifier: “but we get stranglers come in here at all hours” (Thurber 13). McNulty’s first New Yorker piece appeared in 1937, and he worked for the magazine through much of Harold Ross’s tenure as editor and then during William Shaun’s early editorial years in the 1950s. He inhabited the city and was in his writing prime in the mid-century period that in boxing took in Jimmy Braddock’s winning the heavyweight title and later Billy Conn’s almost retrieving it back from Joe Louis. This was the time before the Irish American drift to the suburbs, “When New York Was Irish,” to use Terence Winch’s song title. That it was actually multiethnic notwithstanding, we know what Winch means, and what he means informs McNulty’s work throughout.


Busy Period Irish Cohort York Daily News Pepper Sauce Candy Store 
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© Jack Morgan 2011

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  • Jack Morgan

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