PIECES OF EIGHT by Sydney J. Harris


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Too much of a reasonably good thing. The 183 micro-essays and innumerable aphorisms collected here from Harris' nationally syndicated column (1975-81) are literate and intelligent enough, taken individually; but lumped together they're as tedious as a ten-course dinner of canapÉs. Harris tackles every subject under the sun from the viewpoint of a stalwart, no-nonsense, Studs Terkel-Lou Grant liberal. He speaks up for women's rights, gay lib, the ACLU; for fairness, open-mindedness, and old-fashioned human decency. He blasts war (repeatedly), bigoted right-to-lifers, superpatriots, the arrogance of wealth, the ""rip-off society,"" etc. In a less overtly ideological vein, Harris reflects on the trials of parenthood, on the ways technology enslaves even as it liberates, on the dubiousness of intelligence tests, the humorlessness of Western religion, and the clay feet of literary idols. Harris has a tin ear for titles (""Life's Unfairness Doesn't Excuse Passivity,"" ""Desired Differences Foster a Relationship,"" ""Marital Compatibility Requires Self-Compatibility""), but he usually manages to get in something of substance before signing off. What he can't overcome is the rigid predictability of his format: generally 400 words and eight paragraphs apiece (whence the title), neither pointedly factual nor truly analytic, these judicious little editorials roll on and on with disconcerting uniformity. Quite respectable as ephemera, they fail as a book.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin