From Publishers Weekly
Saul Alinsky, the fiery Chicago activist whose 1971 Rules for Radicals
is regarded as the organizer's bible, has already been memorialized in a biography, a documentary, and a play, which is why von Hoffman (Citizen Cohn
), who spent a decade working with Alinsky as an organizer, wisely offers an homage, as opposed to a biography or an exegesis on [Alinsky's] thinking. What follows is a scattering of anecdotes and stray talking points—some of them insightful, like his observation that Alinsky won his reputation for cynicism by insisting that most of us are moved to action by self-interest first, moral principles second, if at all, many of them hazily remembered and poorly structured. Von Hoffman writes in a loose style that has the beat and rhythm of Chicago street talk, but as the sparsely punctuated sentences twist and turn, confusion takes over and the folksy charm wears thin. Such missteps are easy enough to overlook, but they add up, and after a while readers might wish the author had taken a more conservative approach to grammar, if not to politics. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Saul Alinsky—the audacious, streetwise, “infernally creative” social visionary who innovated the practice of community organizing to combat poverty and racism in viciously segregated and brazenly corrupt postwar Chicago—called himself a radical, which he defined as “someone who was mentally tough.” And so he was. Alinsky's no-nonsense approach to grassroots democracy was forged in his research into organized crime and resulted in his building the foundation for “countless” community organizations across the country that enable people to take charge of their lives. And now he will forevermore be known as a guiding light for President Obama. Von Hoffman was 22 in 1953 when he began working for Alinsky, and he kept at it for 10 wild years, the wellspring for this vivid collage of recollected conversations and adventures, arresting observations, and incendiary opinions. Alinsky emerges from von Hoffman's impish, provocative mosaic as a man who loved life and his calling, a “superbly imaginative tactician” who picked fights he could win; had the lowdown on the powers-that-be, from outright gangsters to corrupt and powerful Catholic clergy; was close friends with philosopher Jacques Maritain; hated fund-raising; and loved Alice in Wonderland. Von Hoffman's intimate, illuminating homage celebrates an American original and meaningful activism. --Donna Seaman