Greene (The 50 Year Dash, LJ 10/1/96), a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has compiled a book of essays from his columns that tell the tale of everyday life in 20th-century America. These are stories that don't make the headlines. They concern, for example, the symbiotic relationship between a 110-year-old mother and her 82-year-old daughter, who live as roommates in a nursing home; the 78 acres of land known as "The Mall of America"; the case of a small-town cop who saved a child's life by double-checking, on a hunch, a closed case of suspected child abuse; and an ode to Robert L. Manners, who owned 37 Big Boy restaurants. The theme that unites these stories is how "the small moments of our livesthe thing no respectable editor would ever think to feature on the front pagegrow in importance as time passes, resonate even louder in our memories and in our hearts." Greene writes deftly; his gift for home truth is refreshing. Recommended for public and academic libraries.Susan Dearstyne, Hudson Valley Community Coll., Albany, N.Y.
Syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist Greene (The 50 Year Dash, 1996; Hang Time, 1992; etc.) collects a hundred or so transitory essays celebrating the old human virtues and decrying the new human vices. Clearly, journeyman observer Greene is against moral shortcuts, meanness, and the demise of courtesy. Let there be no doubt: He is all for the eternal verities, homely and straightforward. His views, all under the rubric of "human interest," are Janus-like, totally despairing and happily sanguine by turns. Now he espies endemic moral rot (e.g., parents who beat one of their children and stuff him in a drawer, out of sight); then, just when that seems to be the paranoid theme, he comes up with positively folksy goodness (the persistent cop who senses something amiss and finds the boy's hiding place). One page may despair of "the coarseness of language, the celebration of violence, the constant devaluation of civility." The next page may cheerfully report true parental love or sweet generosity. With datelines from such precincts as Rensselaer, Ind., Ebensberg, Penn., and Bexley, Ohio (his hometown), Greene tells, in eight or nine hundred adroitly crafted words, of wise old people, murdered babies, enthusiastic boosters, grouchy customers, devoted daddies, and brave kids, and all kinds of dramatis personae short of a faithful dog. He interviews a Berkeley student known as "the Naked Guy" (for clear reasons). He discovers inspiration at county fairs, Yankee Stadium, and the vast Mall of America. Greene's quotidian passing parade may be one of rampant nostalgia and of sentiment verging on the maudlin, but truth to tell, he's pretty good at it. The stories are generallyentertaining and, sometimes, if you're in the right mood, truly moving. A talented journalist in the old tradition serves some traditional apple pie with a bit of corn, and it may just suit a reader somehow predisposed to good feeling.