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LUCKY JIM

A finely written, painful, but profound book.

A former business executive tells the moving story of his rise from poverty to privilege and the secrets that haunted—and almost destroyed—his life.

Hart (Milding, 2004) met future wife Carly Simon on a chance train ride to New York City. He had not known who Simon was, only that he was profoundly attracted to her. A former seminarian, the author was a divorced insurance salesman and sober alcoholic with a mentally challenged son. His early life had been marred by the alcoholism and violence of a father whose “rages were as unpredictable as the Atlantic,” and Catholicism had been his refuge. Simon, by contrast, lived a glamorous life as a famous recording artist who had been married to singer James Taylor and romanced by countless other stars, as well as the daughter of Simon & Schuster co-founder Richard Simon. Despite their differences and the fact that the author, who bore a striking resemblance to Taylor, sometimes felt like a replacement for him, they married six months after they met. For Hart, the main challenge was acclimating to privilege and his sudden acquisition of the financial and emotional support he needed to pursue his dream of writing a novel. He soon discovered that his underlying attraction to men was also an issue, but one he could not face. Painful fissures appeared in his marriage to Simon and in his life; prescription painkillers, hookups with gay men, and crack cocaine became his modes of escape. Two decades after it began, his marriage ended, and he was forced to confront three painful truths: that he was an addict and homosexual who had failed the son he could not bring himself to love. In this searching, honest, and emotionally nuanced narrative, Hart navigates the struggle with his personal demons and the celebrity world with which he unexpectedly became enmeshed with elegance, grit, and artistry. The result is memoir that makes for exceptionally poignant, lyrical reading.

A finely written, painful, but profound book.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62778-214-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Cleis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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