Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

And a six-pack to go... Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 6

6. The Twin Cities' Star Tribune offers this harsh assessment of Neil Steinberg's memoir Drunkard:
[Steinberg's] amazing snobbery does not help endear him to the reader. He sees the people in his AA group as beneath him; he blames [his wife] Edie for his troubles; he gets bored listening to the "woes of others" at his meetings and itches to get back to talking about himself.

But it is his shallow self-image that it is most galling, the way he embraces the mystique of the hard-drinking, Robert Benchley/James Thurber/Mike Royko-type journalist.

He looks at his young sons and thinks, "It kills me that they'll know I'm not the sophisticated dad swirling the wine in his glass and casting off confidence like a glow. They won't admire me."

After 270 pages, he finally has stopped drinking, but you are not at all convinced that it will last. And the emotion you're left with, sadly, is not empathy, but schadenfreude.

5. A more sympathetic -- but harshly titled! -- review/cover-story in The Chicago Jewish News, "Jewish Drunk", explores the role of Steinberg's Judaism:
In a phone conversation (where Steinberg sheds his acerbic self, seems eager to please) he says, surprisingly, that "what helped me get through this was studying Talmud."

Talmud? That wasn't in the book ...

"Talmudic thinking," he amplifies. "Thinking your way out. If you can't drink your way out, you think your way out. The route most people take, putting your faith in Jesus, wasn't really an option for me. I had to think it through really on my own. Being Jewish teaches you to think - the same way when you're six years old you stand up in a room full of gentiles and hold up a menorah and tell them you're Jewish."
4. The Jewish News piece also includes this micro-review from Mrs. Steinberg:
I think it's a magnificent book. It can really help people understand the nature and obsession of addiction, which I think is great. *** Almost everyone can enjoy it. It really can help people understand addiction. So many people know someone who is addicted to something or other - alcohol, illegal or legal drugs. It can really help people.
3. Steinberg's interview with Fox News Chicago is available here.

2. And Steinberg talks with WGN Radio's Kathy and Judy here.

1. And if you want to try a shot of Mr. Steinberg's book for yourself, an excerpt is provided in your Chicago Sun-Times.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Gee mister, I'm not much of a drinker... Steinbook Roundup, Pt. 5

"[S]itting in their underwear in their parents' basements" -- Neil Steinberg's portrait of bloggers, Sun-Times, June 30, 2008.

One day a psychology grad student will submit a thesis paper exploring the early 21st century newspaperman's reoccurring fantasies about this
platonic ideal of the blogger. The dissertation will examine the list of fetishized characteristics published time and again by a variety of ink-stained journalists to describe the idealized mental-model of those who blog:
  • isolated,
  • subterranean,
  • half-naked,
  • with parents lurking just out of earshot.
Of course, the paper would also have to address the niggling question: How exactly is this fantasy anything other than creepy as hell?

Sadly, at the risk of dashing the dreams of newsmen everywhere, this blogger must confess the following: I do not live with my parents. I'm not lonely. I don't blog in the basement. And I don't wear underwear.

Anyway, speaking of Neil Steinberg,
award-winning children's author Ilene Cooper has a review of Neil's "Drunkard" on the Booklist Online:
Incredibly honest (perhaps too honest for his fellow AA members), Steinberg initially wants no part of rehab or Alcholics Anonymous. For one thing, he doesn’t believe in a higher power, and if he did, he would not be inclined to surrender to it. Nor does he have much affection for his fellow addicts, “characters in a mediocre play.” What he loves is booze, and his tone turns almost jaunty as he describes his lapses. He wants a sophisticated life where he can drink, hoping liquour will turn his nebbish-like persona into Mike Royko.
At which point, we ask ourselves, "Just what would it mean for Neil Steinberg to turn into Mike Royko?" Actually, we needn't ask ourselves, because last year Steinberg himself told the Chicagoist exactly what that would mean:
C: Did you know Royko?

NS: Yeah, I did. He was an asshole.
Now I don't profess to know all the magical powers of alcohol, but I do know that turning a man into "an asshole" is well within its meager abilities.

Bonus -- Laurie of Three Boscoe Blog provided this previously unpublished six-word review of Neil Steinberg's "Drunkard":
The guy really loves to drink.
Now that is a pithy writer.