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Despite the enormous research already done in fleshing out the lives of the multitalented, ambitious Jefferson and Hamilton,...

Two antithetical but complementary Founding Fathers, duly and exhaustively compared and contrasted.

Despite the enormous research already done in fleshing out the lives of the multitalented, ambitious Jefferson and Hamilton, Ferling (History, Emeritus/State Univ. of West Georgia; Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free, 2011, etc.) leaves no stone unturned in sifting through the biographies, walking readers through their respective childhoods, and flushing out influences that shaped their livelihoods and helped form their fundamental ideologies regarding the new nation. Though he came from the Southern aristocracy, Jefferson grasped early on the need for land reform as the only way to render the new country into a classical Enlightenment model of “republicanism.” This radical ideology included emancipation of slaves, rejection of primogeniture, offering wider educational opportunities and granting freedom of religion. Hamilton, on the other hand, the survivor of a dysfunctional West Indies family, made good in life through his own industry, intelligence and connections. He was schooled in business and determined to distinguish himself in Washington’s Continental Army even as a college student; yet even there, he gleaned the need for a centralized levying of taxes and imposts, the creation of a national bank and, presciently, the use of black soldiers. Jefferson’s time as a diplomat in Paris underscored his views about alleviating the inequity of wealth, while Hamilton’s work as a tax collector and lawyer convinced him of the need for “bracing the federal system” against “unrestrained popular passion.” As Ferling scrupulously writes, the two founders had essentially different views of human nature: Hamilton believed in a natural elite, while Jefferson denounced the oppression of the many by the tyranny of the few. The author’s comparative study is bold, brisk and lucid.From hammering out constitutional liberties and building the nation’s banking system to jockeying in early elections, Ferling draws crisp, sharp delineations between his two subjects.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60819-528-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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