UK website The Pool has an excerpt of Saint Mazie, the much-lauded new novel by Jami Attenberg, author of the New York Times Bestselling The Middlesteins. They’ve got not just one chapter, but the first five from this book of historical fiction about legendary “Queen of the Bowery” Mazie Phillips—an irreverent but kind figure known for handing out money and advice to men on the skids in Jazz Age New York City, and who was profiled by Joseph Mitchell in the December 21, 1940 issue of The New Yorker (see his collection, Up in the Old Hotel):
Mazie’s Diary, January 4, 1918
I wasn’t ready to go home yet but there was nobody left in the bar worth talking to. Talked to a bum on the street instead, an old fella. We split whatever was in his bottle and I gave him a smoke. I was feeling tough. I asked him how long he’d been on the streets.
He said: Longer than you’ve been alive, girlie. You gotta be tough to last that long.
He beat his chest.
I said: I could survive out here.
He said: You don’t want to try.
I said: I could do it. You wanna see me?
He said: You got a home, you’re lucky.
I said: Why don’t I feel that way?
Then he got gentle with me.
He said: If someone loves you, go home to them.
A bad wind blew in and I grew suddenly, terribly cold. I couldn’t bear the night for another minute. I handed him the rest of my smokes and wandered home.