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HALFWAY TO HOLLYWOOD

DIARIES 1980-1988

Pythonophiles will find this essential, of course. But fans of good writing should dip into these pages, too, for...

Renowned funnyman and world traveler Palin surveys the ruins of the British Empire and heads outward in the follow-up to Diaries 1969–1979: The Python Years (2007).

In 1980, following the release of the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian, Palin and his fellow Pythons seemed poised to conquer the American film industry, with their representative asking more than $6 million for a mere treatment for Paramount. Eight years later, as this installment in the author’s journal closes, the sextet has effectively stopped working together, and Palin is about to embark upon the global adventures that yielded Around the World in 80 DaysPole to Pole and other travelogues. In between, the author writes about all manner of things connected to the film and TV business and the more learned reaches of entertainment. He kvetches about Hollywood’s creative accounting (“The upshot is that not only will there not be a penny profit from America from a movie which was one of the top 40 grossers of the year in the US, but the earnings will hardly cover half the production cost”) and about the conception of various projects such as Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, which, despite the contributions of Sean Connery and the general merriment, Palin still wants to call Terry Gilliam’s Greed. Throughout, Palin is sharp, literate, shrewd and sometimes harsh about the people he encounters. It will not please fans of The Songlines, for instance, to learn that Palin found Bruce Chatwin “rather sneery about things in a slightly aggressive, camp way which I don’t awfully take to.” Neither might Mel Brooks forgive Palin’s description of their chance encounter, which would seem to demonstrate definitively that “Brooks has an almost pathological inability to accept competition—it’s all a reduction of his own world.”

Pythonophiles will find this essential, of course. But fans of good writing should dip into these pages, too, for Palin—Michael, not Sarah—knows his way around a book.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-68202-6

Page Count: 680

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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