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December 26, 2006

One More Time

The Best of Mike Royko
Mike Royko – ISBN 9780226730721

This is a book worth rereading . . . or reading, if you have not. “Mike wasn’t just the best columnist Chicago ever produced, but makes the short list of Greatest American Newspapermen of all time.” He was expert at finding universal truths in parochial situations, simple and abrupt, and often quite humorous in his commentaries.

He was widely franchised, coast to coast, and while originally writing almost exclusively on Chicago politics (Boss:Richard J. Daley of Chicago), he graduated to more general and universal commentary after Daley’s death. This last book was put together posthumously by his wife and a cadre of other admirers, and it is fantastic; the best of 7500 columns over a near four decade career.

Subjects vary from Frank Sinatra to child welfare, political corruption, immigrants, and the purpose of neighborhood bars; his feet, Medicare, obituaries, the Chicago Bears and his personal afflictive disappointment, the Chicago Cubs. He discusses his youthful fear of the parachute drop at the Chicago’s Riverside Amusement Park when it was there. (I, for one, remember it well.)

He often featured people who “represent us . . . who do our work . . . those special few who do what they do for us, not for the paycheck:” cops, firemen, soldiers, astronauts, etc. Those with the brains, brawn, drive, vision . . . the “right stuff.” Those who “accomplish things the rest of us can only marvel at.”

There are tear jerkers, as when his first wife died . . . and John Belushi (a personal friend), and there are flattering interpretations of John Wayne, Fred Astaire, Curly/Larry/Moe, etc. In these he always manages to find the “right word,” not the most flowery, polysyllabic one which sends you to the dictionary for explication. His “pimping” of Prixe Fixe is uncannily humorous.

Humanity was his beat. Chicago was his town, and his masterful descriptions of life there—and in the U.S. in general--are riveting and thought provoking. Cause for reminiscence, as well. It is said that he could always find the “kernel of truth,” but, really, he had the knack of seeking and finding the truffle!

I recommend that you read it, again and again as I have; reflect, weep, chortle, laugh out loud, get angry . . . whatever! A great "bathroom read."

Posted by respeto at December 26, 2006 11:20 AM