Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gimmie the usual... -- Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 3

What would be the point of working at a newspaper if it didn't hype your new book? Neil Steinberg doesn't have to ponder that question because the Chicago Sun-Times gave his new memoir, Drunkard, the push it deserves.

Here is the unabashed plug from the Sun-Times books editor, Teresa Budasi:
Steinberg did a brave thing writing Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life, a post-arrest/rehab memoir -- a memorial of sorts to the once-cherished and romanticized former version of himself as a whiskey-swilling journalist.
The S-T wisely looked outside its offices for the official Chicago Sun-Times Review which was provided by Roger K. Miller, a former Wisconsin newspaper editor:
Steinberg calls himself "a functioning drunkard," a more colorful "slur" he prefers over the clinical word "alcoholic." It fits his sometimes debased behavior, including fishing a bottle of cherry brandy out of the recycling bin to lap the dregs and "snorting" booze by inserting an empty airline minibottle into his nostril and inhaling the alcohol vapors. ***

As a former ink-stained wretch myself, I greatly admire Steinberg's reason for writing Drunkard; not to help others avoid going through what he did -- the high-sounding motive you typically get from people who write about struggles they went through -- but because telling their stories is what writers do and "because doing so somehow redeems us."

It is part and parcel of his honesty in examining his life. Mr. Steinberg, consider yourself redeemed.
Sadly, Mr. Miller is wrong.

Some of my favorite books were written by great writers who were rotten husbands, terrible fathers and miserably failed human beings, see Royko, Michael and Burroughs, William Seward. In my eyes, their books are capital-'g' Great.

But their books, no matter how well-written, honest or beloved, did not -- could not -- redeem their authors of their sins against those who loved them. Great writing alone can no more redeem us of our sins than great cabinetry or great photography can.
One's life can only be redeemed by good living.

Fortunately for Neil, there is plenty good news.

First, none of us are ever really, fully redeemed, so he's got plenty of company on the road to redemption.

Second, an honest and well-written book can be a valuable, powerful tool for living a good life.

And finally, Neil's "Father's Day" piece for the Sun-Times shows that honesty and thoughtfulness -- the characteristics that have served him so well in his chosen occupation -- are serving him in his primary vocation as well.

Note: The Webster Place Barnes & Noble will be hosting Mr. Steinberg's only Chicago area book signing TONIGHT at
7:30 pm.

Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 2
Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 1

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