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The Fiddler in the Subway: The Story of the World-Class Violinist Who Played for Handouts. . . And Other Virtuoso Performances by America's Foremost Feature Writer Paperback – July 6, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What happens when you set one of the worldÖs most renowned violinists at the entrance to one of the nationÖs busiest subway stations during rush hour to play some of the worldÖs most beautiful and haunting music? Will harried commuters, enchanted by the music, linger for a few moments and let the music wrap their souls in peace? Will they appreciatively toss a few coins or dollars in the violinistÖs case? Conspiring with violinist Joshua Bell, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Weingarten discovers that BellÖs virtuoso performance of several classical pieces does little to stop commuters in their tracks, and he reports on this conundrum in the column from which this collection of previously published newspaper columns takes its title. With his incisive wit, Weingarten ranges over other topics, from the possible affair of Woodrow Wilson and Mary Hulbert to the childrenÖs entertainer, the Great Zucchini, whose often squalid personal life contrasts dramatically with his life on stage entertaining three- and four-year-olds at Washington, D.C., area birthday parties. Weingarten travels in search of a town worthy of being called the "armpit of America" and discovers it in Battle Mountain, Nev., a town whose defining image for the journalist is a 40-foot-high neon Shell gas station sign with the "S" burned out. Entertaining and funny, WeingartenÖs stories depict the poignancy of the human condition.
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From Booklist

It’s no surprise that a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner would have something useful to say about writing, but Weingarten exceeds expectations in his passionate, irreverent, and instructive introduction to this superb retrospective collection. And the essays themselves prove that this former editor and feature writer turned columnist and “investigative humorist” is one helluva storyteller and a master “stunt” reporter. A troublemaking truth-seeker, Weingarten set out to determine which town truly deserves to be designated “the Armpit of America.” He tracked down the girl he had a crush on in second grade, rode a bus in Jerusalem to get a sense of what it feels like to live with terrorism, and convinced virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell to pose as a street musician in the Washington, D.C., subway. But Weingarten is more than a provocateur. Each of his cockeyed adventures, thanks to his narrative skills and intellectual ethics, yields genuine feelings and discoveries. And for all his daggered humor, Weingarten never condescends. His curiosity is a form of empathy, his cadenced writing testimony to his caring about life, clear thinking, and beauty.Per Simon & Schuster’s Web site, change title and subtitle in bib data to: The Fiddler in the Subway: The Story of the World-Class Violinist Who Played for Handouts. . . AndOther Virtuoso Performances by America’s Foremost Feature Writer? --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439181594
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439181591
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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I really enjoyed the book,well written.
G. K. MacPherson
Gene Weingarten's "The Fiddler in the Subway" is a collection of twenty feature stories that originally appeared in the Washington Post.
E. Bukowsky
I am still amazed at his variety of subject matters and his ability to fit the writing to the subject the essay is on.
Carlton Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2010
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.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By KBN in DC on July 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified 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 By Music Lover 327 on August 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified 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 By Zachary Bailes 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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