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Saint Mazie by Jamie Attenberg

Saint-Mazie-Jamie-Attenberg Meet Mazie Phillips: big-hearted and bawdy, she’s the truth-telling proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater. It’s the Jazz Age, with romance and booze aplenty–even when Prohibition kicks in–and Mazie never turns down a night on the town. But her high spirits mask a childhood rooted in poverty, and her diary, always close at hand, holds her dearest secrets.

When the Great Depression hits, Mazie’s life is on the brink of transformation. Addicts and bums roam the Bowery; homelessness is rampant. If Mazie won’t help them, then who? When she opens the doors of The Venice to those in need, this ticket taking, fun-time girl becomes the beating heart of the Lower East Side, and in defining one neighborhood helps define the city

Read more . . .

Then, more than ninety years after Mazie began her diary, it’s discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips, really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life.

Inspired by the life of a woman who was profiled in Joseph Mitchell’s classic Up in the Old Hotel, SAINT MAZIE is infused with Jami Attenberg’s signature wit, bravery, and heart. Mazie’s rise to “sainthood”–and her irrepressible spirit–is unforgettable.

Grand Central Publishing (June 2, 2015)

Book Club Party Ideas


A movie-theme party is in store for Saint Mazie.  I found a chalkboard marquee at a hobby shop that I decorated for Saint Mazie.  I also found a few photos on-line of Mazie and the Venice theater which I placed in a movie film strip frame.  My decorations also included “Mazie’s flask” and a simple to make movie-themed centerpiece made with a quart mason jar and movie theater candy.




Book Club Menu

Initially, I wanted to base my menu on theater food during The Great Depression but discovered that only popcorn and candy was served in theaters in the 30’s (A History Movie Concessions at BonAppé   Modern movie theater food would have to suffice.

Times were tough, and cinema owners needed cash to stay afloat, which meant they no longer had the luxury of ignoring movie refreshments. At first, they simply installed candy dispensers or sold (rather than gave away) space to those entrepreneurial vendors who formerly strolled the aisles. Eventually, though, theater construction itself started to incorporate concession stands into the design.
The new star of the concession stand was not candy but popcorn, which had become popular in the U.S. when the first popcorn machine was invented by Chicagoan Charles Cretors in 1885. It was easy to store and cheap to produce, and movie-going Americans swallowed it by the bucketful, as we continue to do in 2013, even though prices have since jumped over 600 percent (when adjusted for inflation). At many cinemas, like Harkins Theaters, the fifth largest independent chain in the country, popcorn remains the no. 1 best seller, followed by sodas, pretzels, nachos, and hot dogs.

I combined hotdogs and pretzels for little pretzel dogs and placed them on a movie reel cupcake stand.


Serve the popcorn in movie popcorn boxes.  Popcorn can be dressed up a quite a bit by adding some extra goodies. Some of my favorite additions include seasoned salt, dried fruit, nuts, nori komi furikake (rice seasoning), chives, red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese, chives, dill, crispy bacon crumbles, taco seasoning, ranch dip seasoning, and Italian dressing seasoning.  Don’t be afraid to experiment, or better yet, set up a popcorn bar with a variety of goodies for your guests to experiment with on their own.


For dessert serve raspberry ice cream with chocolate syrup and chocolate bars like Rosie did for Mazie’s 27th birthday (pg 215).





I found vintage candy wrappers on the Hershey’s website available for download.  I created a pdf of the 1928-1935 Hershey bar to print out and tape over the wrapper of your Hershey bars.


Book Club Resources

Ratings and Reviews

Goodreads: 3.65 stars (3,595 ratings)
Amazon: 3.8 stars (191 ratings)
LibraryThing: 3.8 stars (19 ratings)
My Rating:4 stars couple sentences
  • Attenberg weaves an astonishingly heartfelt story of poverty and loss (one of Mazie’s beloved, orphaned sisters moves to California to become a dancer and is essentially lost to her forever), unconventionality (there’s a lot of socially “inappropriate” sex and love in this book) and, to use a word from that era, “moxie.” With all her tough talk and bootstrap-pulling, Mazie could grow into a cliché – the loose woman with a heart of gold – but Attenberg never lets her, preferring instead to take Mitchell’s sketch and draw all over it with fictional interviews and diaries until Mazie becomes a complex and irresistible real-life woman. She may have lived in a very specific era, but thanks to Attenberg, she has become a character for the ages. —Sara Nelson, Editorial Review
  • Mazie’s life is broken into fragments that at once intrigue and give insight into a fascinating period of New York history. Attenberg’s prose is sharp, fast-paced and economical, brilliantly channelling Mazie’s vivacious character. And despite being set firmly in the past, Mazie’s experiences of grief, family, friendship and mental health are timeless and universal.–Claire Hazelton, The Guardian
  • “Mazie’s story unfolds with simplicity and grace. And like Pete Sorenson, the ordinary guy from Red Hook who finds her diary, readers will be powerfully affected. “Near the end,” says Pete, “I started reading really slowly because I didn’t want it to be over, I just wanted it to go on and on. I wanted her to live forever.”
    Thanks to the wonderful Jami Attenberg (with an assist from the legendary Joseph Mitchell) Mazie does live on, an actual 20th century New York City saint.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR

Discussion Questions

Spoiler Alert: Discussion guide may contain spoilers to the book.

1. How did you experience the Saint Mazie? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to “get into it”? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored…?
2. Describe Mazie’s—personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities.
• Why did she feel compelled to help the down-and-out?
• Describe the dynamics of the friendship between Mazie and Sister T.
• Did they draw strength from one another or did their efforts on behalf of the poor seem              futile?
• Do you admire or disapprove of them?
• Do they remind you of people you know?
3. Does Mazie grow throughout the novel? What does she learn about herself, how the world works and her role in it?
4. Why might Jamie Attenberg have chosen to tell Mazie’s story the way she did?
•  What difference does the structure make in the way you read or understand the book?
5. What passages strike you as insightful, even profound? Perhaps a bit of dialog that’s funny or poignant or that encapsulates a character?
6. Were you statified with the ending? If so, why? If not, why not…and how would you change it?
7. If you could ask Jamie Attenberg a question, what would you ask? Have you read other books by the same author? If so how does this book compare. If not, does this book inspire you to read others?
8. Has this Saint Mazie changed you—broadened your perspective? Have you learned something new or been exposed to different ideas about people or the Great Depression?

(Adapted from Generic Discussions Questions by LitLovers)

The Author

Jamie-Attenberg-author-saint-mazie Born: 1971, Illinois
Education: Johns Hopkins University
She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Her book, The Middlesteins (2003), was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and was published in nine countries.
More information on Jami Attenberg and her other works can be found on Jamie’s website.

Purchase Saint Mazie at the following booksellers

Purchase Amazon Purchase Kindle Books Purchase IndieBound Purchase Audible

Other Notes and Comments

Excerpts from Mazie Phillips’ Obiturary (June 11, 1964)

For more than 65 years, Mazie, a platinum blonde with a husky voice, passed out advice (“Go take a bath, you bum”), money (“That’s a real quarter now”) and sympathy (“You got the makins of a great man”) to every Bowery derelict who would pause to listen.

Mazie did not believe, however, that the lost men of the Bowery could be helped by organized charity.

“I’m not out to knock missions or such,” she once said, “but you aint goin’ to get a bum in a mission if there’s a gutter to sleep in.’ But she denied a report that she had once lured some men out of a mission by waving a bottle of whisky outside.

“All I did,” she remarked, “was to go in the King Kong Saloon and pass out word that the drinks was on me.”

[Mazie] always gave her age as “over 21.”

Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for Saint Mazie? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.

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