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The itinerary of a hack writer's nightmarish journey through junkie hell. Stahl sets the prevailing tone with his prologue, in which he not only wakes up in a blood-soaked diaper after having a billiard- size cyst excised from his scrotum, but he also recalls shooting up heroin while his wife gave birth in the same hospital. Any readers remaining after this sunny preamble should know not to expect inspirational uplift. Stahl chronicles his writing career, which almost from the start found him contributing to glossy porn magazines. An editorial posting at Hustler took him to Los Angeles, where, after a stint in porn-film production, he began writing for a succession of TV series, including Alf, thirtysomething, and Moonlighting. Along with his successful career in TV he cultivated an intravenous narcotics habit that eventually left him destitute, virtually unemployable, and less than sane. Even in the extremity of his addiction, physically and creatively ravaged, he was still occasionally called up for television projects, and the grueling embarrassment of his attempts to feign sobriety make for excruciating reading. With an incessant, bitter jokiness that suggests Last Exit to Brooklyn as written by Paul Lynde, Stahl treats us to bathrooms splashed with blood, dawn excursions to the ghetto to score heroin, several agonizing attempts to kick the habit, scads of grindingly depressing solitary fixes, and an indistinct epiphany during the L.A. riots, which coincided with what was apparently his final withdrawal. The author recalls his lousy childhood, his father's suicide, his mother's furious neuroses, his stifled ``serious'' aspirations as a writer, and his disastrous marriage, suggesting that his entire life was so rotten that drug abuse fit right in, but his lifelong intentness on insuring his own misery remains a conundrum. Like a horrible accident, the memoir morbidly compels attention, but Stahl's self-excoriating wisecracks often trivialize the true ghastliness of his experience, reducing it to exploitation-flick flatness. (First serial to Esquire)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-446-51794-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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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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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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