Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky

Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky

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by Nicholas von Hoffman

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The life and legacy of Saul Alinsky, the largely unknown godfather behind American grassroots democracy and an inspiration for Barack ObamaSee more details below


The life and legacy of Saul Alinsky, the largely unknown godfather behind American grassroots democracy and an inspiration for Barack Obama

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Saul Alinsky, the fiery Chicago activist whose 1971 Rules for Radicals is regarded as the organizer's bible, has already been memorialized in a biography, a documentary, and a play, which is why von Hoffman (Citizen Cohn), who spent a decade working with Alinsky as an organizer, wisely offers “an homage,” as opposed to a “biography or an exegesis on [Alinsky's] thinking.” What follows is a scattering of anecdotes and stray talking points—some of them insightful, like his observation that Alinsky “won his reputation for cynicism by insisting that most of us are moved to action by self-interest first, moral principles second, if at all,” many of them hazily remembered and poorly structured. Von Hoffman writes in a loose style that has the beat and rhythm of Chicago street talk, but as the sparsely punctuated sentences twist and turn, confusion takes over and the folksy charm wears thin. Such missteps are easy enough to overlook, but they add up, and after a while readers might wish the author had taken a more conservative approach to grammar, if not to politics. (July)
From the Publisher
Wall Street Journal
“[Von Hoffman] cautions that some of the quoted material represents his best memory of ‘things said a very long time ago.’ The result is literature, a charmingly picaresque... tale of a man whose job description was first, last and always Disturber of the Peace. The book’s chief delights are its sense of place—Chicago from the 1930s through the 1960s—and the cast of characters who share the stage with the main player as he struts and frets so colorfully.”

Mother Jones
“In his artful portrait, Von Hoffman aims to reclaim the godfather of grassroots activism for the left.”

Booklist, starred
“Von Hoffman’s intimate, illuminating homage celebrates an American original and meaningful activism.”

Carl Bernstein
Radical is a rare gem, the brilliantly-told tale of one of the enduring characters of modern American history: Saul Alinsky, the savvy and cerebral Chicago ‘community organizer’ who continues to influence our epoch. How remarkable that Alinsky came to profoundly touch the lives of three young citizens seeking their own identity in that city between the 1950s and the 1980s – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nicholas von Hoffman, who has crafted an important story that is part history, part memoir and altogether wonderful entertainment.”

Jonathan Alter
“Saul Alinsky once said that he didn’t join the Communist Party as a young man ‘because I have a sense of humor.’ So does this book. Nicholas von Hoffman, a legendary figure in his own right, brings alive not just his old boss Alinsky but all the flora and fauna of old Chicago—the union organizers, gangsters and neighborhood characters of a lost world. This is a raucous and charming first-hand account of one of the greatest small ‘d’ democrats in American history. It sheds light not just on Alinsky but on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and a whole generation of activists who carry a part of him within them.”


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Product Details

Nation Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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