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WHEN YOU FIND OUT THE WORLD IS AGAINST YOU

AND OTHER FUNNY MEMORIES ABOUT AWFUL MOMENTS

As might be expected from her Twitter account, Oxford has a gift for snarky one-liners and self-effacing humor, but her...

The latest book of comic personal essays by Twitter sensation Oxford (Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar, 2013) consists of verbal snapshots of embarrassing scenes from her childhood and later life.

The author, who grew up in western Canada and now lives in Los Angeles, made a name for herself with her tweets, most recently when she elicited millions of responses after inviting readers to respond with stories of sexual abuse attached to the hashtag #NotOkay. She writes seriously and with pride about these responses in the final essay in the volume. The other essays, arranged in no discernible order, relate occasionally amusing stories from Oxford’s anxiety-ridden life. In one, she begs her parents to allow her to go to summer camp and finds that it doesn’t live up to her fantasies. In another, she attends day camp (“middle-class, working parent prison”) and is alarmed to find herself on the edge of a tornado and in danger of being pelted by baseball-sized hail. This anecdote segues abruptly into an account of her fears that her children will be endangered by earthquakes in Southern California. The essays about the author’s adulthood are generally less fully developed than the childhood ones. In one odd one, she sends her husband off on a date with a guy he believes has been flirting with him at the gym and then interrupts them when she senses something serious is happening. Several of the essays retrace familiar territory, like one in which she looks forward to spending a couple weeks working while her husband and kids are in Canada and instead wastes her time stuffing her face with chips and watching TV.

As might be expected from her Twitter account, Oxford has a gift for snarky one-liners and self-effacing humor, but her stories are weakly structured and often drift to their ends without resolution.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-232277-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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