Joe Gould's Secret

Joe Gould's Secret

__FORCETOC__ Infobox Book
name = Joe Gould's Secret
title_orig =
translator =


image_caption =
author = Joseph Mitchell
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
subject =
genre = Nonfiction
publisher = Vintage Books
release_date = 1965
media_type = Print
pages = 208
isbn = ISBN 0-375-70804-9
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Joe Gould's Secret" is a 1965 book by Joseph Mitchell. The book details the true story of the titular Joe Gould (Bohemian), a writer who lived on the streets of Greenwich Village in the first half of the 20th century. He was an eccentric, bridging the gap between bohemianism and the beat generation, though he was an outspoken critic of both. This criticism alienated him from the social circles of poets, authors, and artists of his time, and instead he focused on documenting the history of what he called the "shirt-sleeved multitude".cite book|title=Joe Gould's Secret|author=Joseph Mitchell|year=1965|publisher=Vintage Press|id=ISBN 0-375-70804-9]

Plot

By observing the lives of those around him and recording the goings-on, Gould set about compiling an exhaustive record of modern life he called "Oral History". He claimed that oral history held more truth than the formalized history of textbooks and professors, as it gave voices to the lower classes that were representative of true humanity.cite book|title=Joe Gould's Secret|author=Joseph Mitchell|year=1965|publisher=Vintage Press|id=ISBN 0-375-70804-9] In the 1920s, Gould had small portions of his "History" published in magazines, but in the years that followed he became more secretive and eccentric. He was well-known among the local shopkeepers, artists, and restaurateurs, many of whom gave him handouts of money or food in support of his project.

Mitchell met Gould in 1942 and wrote a profile of him for The New Yorker, entitled "Professor Sea Gull". The first part of "Joe Gould's Secret" is made up of this profile, from Gould's graduation from Harvard University in 1911, leading up to the writing of his "Oral History", said to be composed of 20,000 conversations and 9,000,000 words. The second part of the book is a more personal memoir of Mitchell's experiences with Gould, their eventual falling out, and his discovery of Joe Gould's secret: that the "Oral History" did not exist.

Gould suffered from writer's block and hypergraphia; while to those around him he appeared to be taking constant notes—a notion he was happy to reinforce—he was, in fact, re-writing the same few chapters dealing with seemingly trivial events in his own early life. He had filled countless notebooks with edited versions of these events, evidently searching for meaning in the revisions.cite book|title=Joe Gould's Secret|author=Joseph Mitchell|year=1965|publisher=Vintage Press|id=ISBN 0-375-70804-9] Out of respect, Mitchell waited several years after Gould's death to reveal the secret. He wrote the second article in 1964, and combined it with the original article in book form in 1965. Ironically, Mitchell was plagued with writer's block for the next three decades, and was never able to publish another book.

Film adaptation

In 2000, the book was made into an independent film starring Ian Holm as Gould and Stanley Tucci as Mitchell, with supporting roles played by Susan Sarandon and Steve Martin.

References


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