Jimmy Breslin, the street-savvy, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist whose two-fisted prose championing the little guy and pillorying those who betrayed the public trust made him a New York City institution for more than 40 years, died Sunday. He was 88.
Breslin, who also turned out a string of fiction and nonfiction books, died of complications from pneumonia, the Associated Press reported, citing his stepdaughter, Emily Eldridge.
A self-described “unlettered bum” from the borough of Queens who nevertheless was known to read Dostoevsky for relaxation, Breslin launched his career as a columnist at the New York Herald Tribune in 1963.
From start to finish — at Newsday, where his last regular column ran on Election Day in 2004 — the loud and aggressive writer vividly captured what he considered “the only city in the world worth talking about.”
Los Angeles Times columnist Jack Smith once described Breslin’s writing style as being “like an Irish wind that has blown through Queens and Harlem and Mutchie’s bar. It is a pound of Hemingway and a pound of Joyce and 240 pounds of Breslin.”
Breslin was part of the wave of practitioners of what came to be known as New Journalism: a group of gifted writers that included Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion and others who reported on the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s in newspaper and magazine journalism that read like good fiction.
“I never thought about how to do a column,” Breslin told Marc Weingarten, author of “The Gang That Wouldn’t Write Straight,” a 2006 book about the New Journalism revolution. “It just came naturally, I guess. It had a point of view and it had to spring right out of the news.”
RIP Chuck Berry
Breslin wasn’t the only legendary icon to pass away over the weekend.
Chuck Berry, who some say was the inventor of rock ’n’ roll, died on Saturday at his home near Wentzville, Mo., according to The New York Times. He was 90.
Berry’s death was confirmed by the St. Charles County Police Department on their Facebook page. The department said it responded to a medical emergency at Berry’s home and that efforts to revive the musician were unsuccessful, according to The New York Times.
Berry was known for rock classics such as “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven.”
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