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MAXIMUM INSIGHT

Bill Maxwell, Author, Roy Peter Clark, Foreword by
Bill Maxwell, Author, Roy Peter Clark, Foreword by . Univ. Press of Florida $24.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-8130-2436-3
Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 01/01/2003
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In this compendium, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times syndicated columnist Maxwell offers his perspective on the environment, education, politics, migrant workers and his life as an African-American. This is journalistic writing at its best. Each piece features spare, direct sentences illuminating fragments of individual lives that convey the beauties, frustrations, failures and complexities of living in modern America. Maxwell is most compelling when writing about what his readers likely are not—poor, black, migrant workers or homeless. He excels in conveying an understanding of these experiences, and creating empathy for his subjects. In one column, he captures the sense of liberation reading offers to a poor young girl living with her grandmother in a Florida town labeled "the AIDS capital of the world." In another, he describes a painful incident in a restaurant during which he and his white companion were subjected to humiliating racism, an experience that left him in tears. Maxwell forcefully addresses the intractable problem of race relations. His approach is provocative and exhibits a hard-edged intellectual rigor that is pragmatic, rational and constructive, and never doctrinaire: he believes it is counterproductive to mark one's race as "victim," so is against seeking general reparations for slavery. But he favors affirmative action because he sees the opportunities for African-Americans and whites as unequal. Maxwell is a generous writer. Many of his columns are poignant, many hopeful, others funny, and he does not hesitate to share his anger or his vulnerabilities when it is important to his point. Maxwell's world is well worth exploring. (Nov.)

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