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Reviewing the Reviews

A weekly look at the local (and not so) book reviews.

Hillary Schmillary
Have any political figures in American history been as thoroughly - and often ridiculously - examined as the Clintons? From Bill's sex life to Hillary's laugh, the obsession is beyond absurd.

Now comes Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Wome Writers, which is not a wholly uninteresting premise, but also shows just how far behind we are as a nation compared to the rest of the globe's matter-of-fact history of women leaders.

Thankfully, the Sun-Times's Teresa Budasi, as she states in her Sunday column, has read Thirty Ways so we don't have to. (Wouldn't 10 or 15 ways have been enough?)

Budasi found a sizable number of the book's essays to be silly and predictable - and far too many coming from editor Susan Morrison's New Yorker pals. But the book is not totally without value.

"Thankfully, for every five essays about Hillary's fashion sense, icy coldness, stand-by-your-man-ness and even weird stuff like what her food preferences say about her or whether she's a dog or cat person (Susan Orlean, you phoned in this assignment), there is one that stands out."

In the end, Budasi finds essays by six authors worthy of your time.

"And while you're reading," she writes, "remember that no book like this would ever be written about a male candidate."

Abortion Portion
"Abortions are a much more common procedure in America than most people think, says Susan Wicklund," The Week reports in its roundup of reviews (not available online) of Wicklund's This Common Secret: My Life as an Abortion Doctor.

"An abortion provider for the past two decades, Wicklund claims that 40 percent of American women have abortions during their childbearing years.

"She has seen how varied women's circumstances can be. Once she refused to abort a baby who was later murdered by its father. Once she performed an abortion for a rape victim who learned, too late, that the fetus had been conceived in a loving relationship before the attack. She has seen pro-life demonstrators return to the picket line outside her clinics within a week of abortions they elected to have themselves."

Remembering Reagan
"President Ronald Reagan, returning from a 1982 trip to Latin America, said: 'You'd be surprised. They're all individual countries,'" notes a New York Times review of Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul.


"In 1992, Margaret Thatcher - perhaps more familiar with the desolate Falkland Islands, which her military had reclaimed from Argentina when she was the prime minister of Britain - seemed nonplussed to see skyscrapers over Sao Paulo, Brazil, the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere: 'Why didn't anybody tell me about this?'"

Internet Imbecility
More reviews are rolling in of Lee Siegel's insufferable Against The Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, and while most are critical they also fail to make the most obvious of observations about the fallacies of Siegel's argument.

Take the New York Times review on Sunday, capped by an infographic distilling Siegel's argument into an error message: Disconnected: The Internet's connectivity has unexpectedly isolated you. Sitting alone in front of your computer encourages exhibitionism and asocial behavior.

Has the Internet isolated people any more than, say, TV, radio, or . . . books? None of which allow you constant contact not only with your friends but folks all around the globe who share your interests?

It's sheer nonsense.

"The Internet, Siegel argues, is the first social environment to serve the needs of the 'asocial individual,'" the Times notes.

1. Thank God! They need to be served too.
2. Ever hear of comic books?

But the ultimate in Siegel silliness comes when he puts the Lonelygirl hoax in the same category as the Iraq War for its betrayal of the public.

"By the time the Lonelygirl hoax was revealed, the country had long been reeling from a series of public betrayals," Siegel writes, according to the Times. "Enron officials had lied to their shareholders. A New York Times reporter named Jayson Blair had lied to his editors. James Frey had fabricated events in his best-selling, Oprah-endorsed memoir. Most consequentially, and outrageously, of all, President Bush had clearly lied to America and to the world about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and also about a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. You might have expected an exasperated American public, or at least the American media and blogosphere, to be equally angered by the revelation that YouTube and MySpace had been infiltrated by dishonest and powerful vested interests."

Oh. My. God.

Writes reviewer John Lanchester: "The fact that a man as smart as Siegel came to put Lonelygirl15 and Iraq into the same train of argument is a sign of the Internet's power to make people lose all sense of perspective."


Posted on February 5, 2008

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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