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Friday, January 07, 2005

Chicago Magazine: "The saga of Bob Greene, now 55, is a complex tale of success, failure, mystery, and tragedy. As a young graduate of Northwestern University, he quickly made a name as a pioneering journalist?finding fresh angles, exploring pop culture, injecting himself into a story. His early work was celebrated by masters such as Jimmy Breslin and Tom Wolfe. Over the years, though, the gaze of the wunderkind went from forward to backward, and the middle-aged writer dwelt in nostalgia and sentimentality, concentrating on the glories of an America?or an imagined America?several generations removed. Throughout, he had a talent for tapping his own life and musings, even the most mundane daily experiences, and shaping them into pointed observations and lessons. Critics found much of this to be bunk, but readers responded warmly.
?What was Bob Greene?s talent?? says Jim Squires, the Tribune?s editor from 1981 to 1989. ?He arrived at a point of view on common, everyday issues, and he expressed it in a way that obviously a huge bunch of readers in the country would look at and say, ?I agree with that. That?s exactly the way I feel.? And that is a talent. That is a great talent.?
The trouble was, in public comments Greene made it clear that sometimes he did not believe what he wrote. He was just finding an angle that would make a good column?draw attention, promote his career. He mixed candor and calculation so shrewdly that, looking back over his work, it is impossible to tell when he is being honest and when he is just reaching for effect. But the devastating events that have unfolded are beyond questions about "

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