Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

Mimsy Review: The World of Mike Royko

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, September 2, 2006

“I hate to brag, but I think that around here, I’m every bit as disliked as Sinatra. But I wouldn’t think of asking for a police guard. He’d probably dislike me, too, so what’s the advantage?”

Doug Moe’s “The World of Mike Royko” is not as deep as Ciccone’s “A Life in Print” tries to be, but it does what it does very well.

RecommendationPossible Purchase
AuthorDoug Moe
Length115 pages
Book Rating6

This is more of a coffee-table book, wider than it is tall with a non-glossy jacket. Unlike A Life in Print, it does reprint some of Mike Royko’s columns: as photographs of clippings as they were saved by someone who dated them in pencil. There is nothing hard in this book. Where Ciccone’s book purports to be about the developments in journalism and the decline of satire throughout Royko’s life, this is basically about Royko’s immediate family. Towards the beginning, it is about his parents; later, it is about his own family. There are some nice old photos of his parents and grandparents, especially towards the beginning.

It rarely talks about the literary figures around Royko: Algren shows up as an early influence when Royko runs across an Algren book while in the military. There’s a photo of Royko, Daley, and Studs Terkel.

It’s also a book about a man who stayed mostly put. He moved around a lot within Chicago, but he never left it. Moe quotes Royko’s own Boss:

Chicago, until as late as the 1950s, was a place where people stayed put for a while, creating tightly knit neighborhoods, as small-townish as any village in the wheat fields.… You could always tell, even with your eyes closed, which state you were in by the odors of the food stores and the open kitchen windows, the sound of the foreign or familiar language, and by whether a stranger hit you in the head with a rock.

You could pretty much tell where Royko’s writing struck by the same thing—even the food.

This is an easy read; it is a short book with large type and lots of white space. There’s little here that A Life in Print doesn’t have, but it can be read more quickly and it has better pictures. It also helps to know Royko’s columns. While it provides a few of the columns in full it just as often mentions them in passing, assuming the reader is already familiar with them.

The best books about Royko remain Royko’s own columns, but other than the Mike Royko’s opinions in the best of collections brought out posthumously, you’ll need to haunt used book stores for them. One benefit of this book is that it gives you a photo of five out of six of his essay collections so you’ll know what to look for. Only Up Against It is missing.

The World of Mike Royko

Doug Moe

Recommendation: Possible Purchase