NO ORDINARY LIVES: One Man's Surprising Journey into the Heart of America

Bartholomew Gill, Author . Morrow $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-380-97798-7

Inspired by Charles Kuralt's "On the Road" reports for CBS News 20 years ago, Idaho journalist Johnson pitched an idea to his editor at the Lewiston Morning Tribune: a column based on the idea that a reporter "could go to the phone book, pick a number randomly, and do a story on whoever answers." More than 800 columns later, Johnson's brand of "everybody has a story" journalism has achieved a certain national notoriety, having been parodied by comic luminaries like David Letterman and Jon Stewart. In this, his first book, however, Johnson's stories fall flat. Instead of fascinating in-depth profiles, Johnson uses only brief summaries of his subjects' lives to relentlessly explain the ups and downs of his own life (his first jobs, his first divorce, his love of nature, his love of women, etc.) Unfortunately, Johnson doesn't offer the same perspective on his own story as he does, say, on Florie, a ZZ Top–loving twice-divorced mother of five. His personal insights are facile ("I love to hear about the old days and look at historical pictures"), and his reporting lacks depth ("Here was a man who, with a cultivator and other gardening implements, had made the world more beautiful"). A collection of his best columns would have been a much better way for Johnson to show how he learned that "the most important lessons are found not at the pinnacle of what we consider news, but amid the routine ups and downs experienced by everyday people." (July)

Reviewed on: 06/24/2002
Release date: 06/01/2001
Mass Market Paperbound - 368 pages - 978-0-380-80864-9
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-06-163014-9
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-06-163008-8
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 368 pages - 978-0-06-163012-5
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-06-185674-7
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