Not necessarily the best but, rather, approximately 150 of some of the best of Baker's 3800 ``Observer'' columns totaling nearly three million words that have appeared in the New York Times since July 16, 1962. They deal mostly with money, nonsense, places, roots, the New Age, events of 1968, television Baker keeps his set in the cellar, the gourmet revolution and the low state of the mother tongue. A long piece, ``The Becoming Looseness of Doom,'' is adapted from an address to a college graduating class, and a few personal columns reveal ``a somewhat staid, conservative fellow gone a bit long in the tooth and, therefore, starting to believe that it was a better world when he was a youth.'' The essays should be read a few at a time, over weeks or months; although many of them seem as valid today as they did 10, 20 or 30 years ago, several have dated. But the collection will please Baker's devoted fans and may induce others to subscribe to the Times in order to keep up with his latest skeptical sallies. Oct.
The acid test of good journalism is whether or not it will bear re-reading in book form. Baker passes the test with flying colors. No one can save all the old copies of the New York Times, so how pleasant it is that Baker has selected on principles explained in his introduction, which commend themselves 137 of 3800 or so of his ``Observer'' columns, written for the Times between 1963 and 1989. It is futile to attempt to identify his themes, so various are they. But the collection makes a homogeneous book in a way that does not always result from the gathering together of pieces written over a span of years. It is evident that Baker's style has changed, as authors' styles are apt to do when they no longer fear the public and can discard the impersonal manner of anonymity and write freely. Highly recommended for all public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/90.-- A.J. Anderson, Graduate Sch. of Library & Information Science, Simmons Coll., Boston
School Library Journal
YA-- Surely among the 130+ columns Baker has reprinted, primarily from the New York Times, readers will be able to find numerous articles to chortle over. If, however, they desire a short lesson in American temperament from 1963 to the present, it can be had by reading the book straight through. Social history of the '60s returns full flower. Gentle satire will be easily recognized by teens in such articles as ``Bulmer strikes back'' and ``On helping youth help itself.''
New York Times Book Review
Russell Baker wrote his first column for The New York Times on July 16, 1962. Now, 3,800 columns later, "give or take a hundred," the author says, he offers a selection of the best. Arranged under such headings as "Family Matters," "Places I've Been," "Serious Nonsense" and "The Old Cuisine" (don't miss "Francs and Beans"), these 10 dozen mini-essays provide a gifted humorist's perspective on a quarter-century of the ridiculous and the sublime.