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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Good writing is difficult to define, but you'll know it when you see it. It looks easy, but it's not. An effective essay has a central theme that is crisply expressed, with no extraneous words. An essay may be humorous, persuasive, powerful, moving, or all of the above. Gene Weingarten's "The Fiddler in the Subway" is a collection of twenty feature stories that originally appeared in the Washington Post. Weingarten is a reporter, editor, and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who touches on a wide range of topics.

Weingarten starts off with a bang. "The Great Zucchini," is about "Washington's preeminent preschool entertainer." Zucchini commands big fees, but lives like a pauper. He has a magical ability to relate to children, partly because he is a big kid himself. He also harbors a shocking secret identity which is at odds with his public persona. Other notable chapters are: "The Armpit of America," about a Nevada town with little to boast about; "Snowbound," a visit to "a flyspeck island off the coast of Alaska"; "Doonesbury's War," in which Weingarten profiles cartoonist and political satirist Gary Trudeau; and "Fatal Distraction," about parents who inadvertently leave their small children in locked cars and forget about them. The final essay, "The Fiddler in the Subway," is about former child prodigy Joshua Bell, one of the world's premier violinists who, without fanfare, sets up shop in the Metro at L'Enfant Plaza. Will anyone notice that a renowned musician is playing for them?

The author's philosophy is that "a feature story will never be better than pedestrian unless it can use the subject at hand to address a more universal truth." He goes on to say that "it is not enough to observe and report. You must also think." Weingarten gives us much to ponder, including why some people stubbornly refuse to vote, the sick feeling that doting parents sometimes have when their grown children leave home, and whether it is really necessary to unearth every secret and scandal in the lives of famous people. "The Fiddler on the Subway" is an impressive, entertaining, and enlightening compilation by a man who has the ability to transform feature stories into works of art.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Seriously, I'm the first reviewer? I find that surprising, as I know I'm far from the only member of The Cult of Weingarten. I've been an ardent fan of Gene's Post chats for years, and pre-ordered this book months ago, ignoring the ridicule of my husband ("Why are you buying a collection of stories that you've already read?"). I received it a few days ago, and naturally he's already started stealing my copy to read for himself. We've both been skipping around, finding new essays that we missed and re-reading old favorites, and different pieces have been a topic of conversation every single day since it arrived - it's that good. I actually contend that while he's a gifted humorist, Mr. Weingarten's talent truly shines when he's writing features (and the Pulitzer committee agrees). This is a collection you'll come back to again and again. Poop.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Only 2 reviews? Surprising. OK, I will not summarize the pieces that make up this volume. You can find that elsewhere, or you can just be surprised (if you have not read them before). Instead, I will just spit out a bunch of superlatives. This is the best collection of short non-fiction pieces that I have ever read. It really is that good. I am a sucker for great writing about everyday subjects. If you are too, then this is a must-read. These stories never once insult your intelligence; they are constantly giving you dots and you are connecting them in your mind as you read. And you don't even realize it. This is not writing for people that see the world in B&W - as good v. evil. There are no good guys or bad guys in here, just real people. If you are not convinced yet, I think you can find some of these stories online at the Washington Post. Read a few, then you will want to buy the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Gene Weingarten's new book, The Fiddler in the Subway, provides a brief anthology of his work. From hilarious to serious this two-time Pulitzer Prize winner takes the reader on a walk through the human experience.
Weingarten's ability to pose questions without answers provides a fresh take on what has become a dry scene for non-fiction. He does not control the story, but simply tells it as he sees it from his perspective. As with every story it is told through a particular lens. Weingarten's lens is that of the meaning of life. I find that in every story, every event, there exists a kernel of truth. This truth is not the kind that shakes one to an existential core, but rather awakes one to greater possibilities.
I bought the book on a Friday afternoon, and by Saturday afternoon I had completed the book - all 361 pages. If you want a book that well keep you engaged, pick up a copy. As you read you will be taken through recent American history and find yourself constantly thinking back to what America has been. Perhaps it is what Weingarten doesn't do that is most profound: he leaves the door open for the reader to imagine what America can become.
He doesn't pretend to be the person with all the answers, but someone who wants to report a story. In the telling of stories, the reporting of American's lives, you will find a future. Indeed, the future presented is alive in our past and present. I could tell you what I think that future looks like, but I think you would be better off finding out yourself. So, pick up a copy, listen to the voice, and imagine what could be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Every story in this collection is fascinating and powerful. In each one, something profound is said about the human condition, but said so eloquently, with humor and compassion, and in such simple clear prose, that the reader has an 'aha' moment of pleasure. I have recommended this book to many friends and all have lavished praise on these tender human stories.
Katherine McCaughan
Author of 'Natasha Lands Down Under'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
The Fiddler in the Subway is an outstanding read. Throughout varies chapters of the book there are several sub-topics that Geine Weingarten explores. Once a chapter, which could also be referred to as a section in this case, is complete, the author does a great job of leaving you thinking. The special thing about this book is that it doesn’t leave you asking questions about what happens next, rather it leaves people asking questions about themselves and occurrences in their own lives. Each chapter of this book leaves the reader with a short life lesson, which makes it a book that is almost impossible to set aside. Gene Weingarten provides sections that suite and appeal to all personality types, ranging from the use of humor, to inspiration, all the way to romantic moments. Another perk of this book is that it doesn’t take hours at a time to get a sense of accomplishment, as each chapter tells a new story, it is well worth it to use 30 minutes of free time to read one section. Reversely, it is very sensible to sit down for a few hours and enjoy the array of stories and experiences that Weingarten writes about. The difficulty of this read is rather simple which makes it appealing to younger crowds who are searching for meaning in the world. This book also appeals to older more ‘leftist’ crowds as it shows many instances where money is just a small portion of what humans live for. I highly recommend the Fiddler in the Subway!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"The Fiddler in the Subway" is a collection of columns written by Gene Weingarten at the Washington Post. The essay that serves as the book's title involves a renowned violinist playing classical music outside one of D.C.'s major subway stations during rush hour. Few of the passers-by lingered to take in the music; interestingly, all of the young children walking by wanted to do so but were prevented from doing so by their parents. However, given the fact that the violinist was playing little-known classical music during rush hour probabl goes a long way to explaining why the performance was largely ignored. (He did earn the equivalent of about $40/hour, though.)

Another story focuses on Battle Mountain, Nev., reluctantly named "Armpit of America" by the author after spending several days there - unimpressed by the environs but impressed by some of the residents and workers. (Actually they encouraged him to do so, and made a positive out of the noteriety.)

Still another covers life in a far north Eskimo town, communicating the extreme boredom experienced by its young residents and their high suicide rate, as well as how modern life contributed to that ennui through making life less challenging.

Continuing, we meet "The Great Zucchini" - a D.C. area pre-school entertainer who earns a reasonably good income working just a few hours/week, but cannot manage the money and lives hand-to-mouth. And so on, throughout.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I anticipated and was hoping the entire book evolved around "Fiddler in the Subway"; however only the last story in the book focused on that specific story. Overall, a very fine read! Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Thoroughly enjoying the book...I bought 2, one for me and one to share! I so admire folks who can see the joy in life, and be able to put it into words. Gene has a wonderful knack in getting to know peoples story. This is my first book by Gene, and will be buying his others...Tells true stories like McMurtry, wonderful characters!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Extremely well written but the Fatal Distraction chapter is simply heartwrenching. (The author rightfully also warns the readers.) This book covers a wide range of captivating subjects. My husband and I are reading it to each other and it reads very well out loud. Just an all round excellent and memorable book.
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