The last piece journalist Joseph Mitchell ever wrote for The New Yorker
was a 1964 profile entitled "Joe Gould's Secret." It was a two-part follow-up to a much shorter piece Mitchell had written in 1942 about Gould, a homeless, Greenwich Village eccentric
and self-styled bohemian who, after graduating from Harvard some 30 years earlier, decided the working life wasn't for him. Dressed in grimy, secondhand clothes, Gould spent his days soliciting "contributions" from friends — including poet E.E. Cummings — downing bottles of ketchup and
free bowls of soup at some of the Village's more tolerant eateries, and scribbling away at "The Oral History," a monumental...