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Reviewing the Reviews

Catching up on a few weeks' worth, starting with the most recent editions.

Publication: Tribune

Cover: Another paean to Studs Terkel, featuring this quote from reviewer and author E.L. Doctorow: "The memories of this nonagerian author are free-associative; they dance along the synapses of his ebullient brain."


Overwrite much, E.L.?

In other words, Terkel's latest is an unfocused mess that moves from one tangent to another as if he just turned on a tape recorder and started talking?

Previously: Last week was the holiday gift guide (a total waste) and the previous week the cover featured Daniel Boone (zzz . . . ). The week before that was "What's So Funny? Comics may have grown up faster than their fans." Because every single year newspapers must reference comics growing up or be banished from the business.


Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: A review of Michael Wiley's The Last Striptease: "Former Chicagoan's first novel is loaded with wall-to-wall plot, impressive body count."

Previously: Books editor Teresa Budasi took an online quiz and - much to her surprise - found that the presidential candidate whose views most aligned with hers was Dennis Kucinich. So she picked up his memoir, The Courage of Survive, which she described as "not an outline of his career in politics or his platform - not directly anyway; it's Kucinich, in his own words, going back to his poor, working-class roots. He has a remarkable memory of people and places; his family moved 21 times before he moved out at 17, and he remembers every address and neighborhood."

Also catching up: Two weeks ago, Budasi wrote about David Levy's Love + Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. Don't laugh. "[H]e comes up with so many rational, scientific and sociologically sound arguments that the deeper you get into the book, the more difficult it becomes to dismiss his thesis," Budasi writes.

"For example, this little tidbit: 'There are obvious social benefits in robot sex - the likely reduction in teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and pedophilia.' At least two-thirds of that thought is completely reasonable - and encouraging."

Also: Lloyd Sachs rightfully demolishes Tom Brokaw's latest marketing prop, Boom! Voices of the Sixties. "For Brokaw, not surprisingly, 'ageless troubadors' such as James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Joni Mitchell provided the soundtrack for the '60s," Sachs writes. "But what of the Who and Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane? Where in this book is the defiance that defined this era for so many?"

Jesus Christ, James Taylor?!!!

That is so Tom Brokaw.

Of course, softening the edges of the 60s is a neat way of dismissing them.

Just another strategy West Ravenswoodite and former Punk Planet managing editor Anne Elizabeth Moore might point to in Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity, also reviewed in this issue.

I've commented favorably before on Moore's work, so I'll just leave you on this one with this golden nugget: "She was recently invited to voice her concerns to an audience of [marketers] at a 'futurist' conference, where she was met with offers to help polish her 'sales pitch' - and offers for her work as a consultant," reviewer Mark Athitakis writes.

"These people are really nice," Moore told Athitakis. "But they just don't get it on a fundamental level."


The funny thing about authenticity is how much marketers - and the media - want to fake it.


Publication: New York Times

Cover: "The Ten Best Books of 2007."

Also: Dan Barry's review of Studs Terkel's memoir is more convincing than Doctorow's: "The volume has been cobbled together, but is not a mishmash . . . What emerges is an engrossing stream-of-consciousness meditation on the 20th century by a man who, it seems, never forgave himself for being born three weeks after the sinking of the Titanic, and so he vowed in the crib to bear witness - to everything."

Noted: "Charles Bukowski was a monstrously homely man because of a severe case of acne vulgaris when he was young," Jim Harrison writes in his review of the Bukowski collection The Pleasures of the Damned. "Along the way he also had bleeding ulcers, tuberculosis and cataracts; he attempted suicide; and only while suffering from leukemia in the last year of his life did he manage to quit drinking. Bukowski was a major-league tosspot, occasionally brutish but far less so than the mean-minded Hemingway, who drank himself into suicide. Both men created public masks for themselves, not a rare thing in a writer's paper sack of baubles, but the masks were held in place for so long that they could not be taken off except in the work."


1. Glenn Beck
2. Stephen Colbert
3. Tom Brokaw
4. Anna Quindlen
5. Eric Clapton


Posted on December 11, 2007

MUSIC - Muddy Waters Museum Has Mojo.
TV - WGN Now Trump TV.
POLITICS - President Trump Has 3,400 Conflicts Of Interest.
SPORTS - The Big Ten's Blood Money.

BOOKS - Searching For The World's Largest Owl.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - New Mop Shaped Like Taco.

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