Book Review: Bob Greene’s America by Bob Greene (1993)

This volume contains two previously published collections of Bob Greene’s work, 1983’s American Beat and 1985’s Cheeseburgers. Twenty years old. The pieces, collected from his column in Esquire called “American Beat” (who would have guessed?) and his columns in the Chicago Tribune, have held up rather well.

As part of his style, Greene often introduces the man, the visitor, or the writer into the story just like that. An abstract common noun, which allows the reader to pour himself (or herself, I suppose) into the story. This abstract serves as an observatory proxy, and appreciate the narrative device. I tried to identify what, specifically, I like about his columns, and I like this technique.

The subject matter, as well as the length, vary from piece to piece, but since this comes from the near apogee of his professional status, Greene gets to travel all across the country and talk to any number of important people, from Gerald Ford to Meryl Streep. I like the writing style, and I’m impressed with the lifestyle affected by the narrative voice. The book was well worth the $6.00 I spent on it, especially since it’s really like $3.00 for each book contained in the volume.

Listen, friends, I know I promised I would zing Bob Green a couple of times for the indiscretion that led to his downfall, but jeez, I read a couple of bits about him after finishing the book, including “The Sad Saga of Bob Greene” from Chicago Magazine and “The Confessions of Bob Greene” from Esquire, and I don’t want to jump on the petty bandwagon with other, more-refined and urbane columnists from Chicago and the media watchers who chatter like nightingales trying to capture the souls of the departed and downfallen.

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