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ANGRY OPTIMIST

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JON STEWART

In the forest of quotations, Stewart still often eludes his pursuer.

A prolific biographer (Stephen King and Colbert are among her subjects) returns with a good-news/bad-news account of the career of the host of the Daily Show.

Rogak’s endnotes (One Big Happy Family: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Caring for One Another, 2013, etc.) indicate that virtually all of her many quotations come from previously published sources (she does mention a few phone interviews, though not with Stewart himself), so there’s kind of a highly competent term-paper feel throughout her breezy narrative. She begins by calling Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in 1962) “a bundle of walking contradictions”—the principal one being the contrast between his very popular public self and his intensely private life. Those who know Stewart only in his current capacity will be surprised to learn about his chops as a high school trumpet player and his talent in soccer (he played for the College of William and Mary). Readers won’t be surprised to learn that he was a joker throughout his life; he was named the senior with the best sense of humor in his high school. Rogak follows his early struggles to become a professional comedian (his first appearance was less than auspicious) and his steady rise through the ranks of his competition (which included Ray Romano, Chris Rock and Louis C.K.), his early experiences on TV, his near misses for prestigious jobs, his arrival in 1999 at the Daily Show and its ensuing steady success. In the early chapters, the author is highly flattering; later, she quotes some tough things about Stewart from former employees who talk about the harsh work environment, Stewart’s temper and his failures to include many women on the staff. She also rehashes his media battles with Crossfire and Mad Money and mentions those who have left his show to succeed elsewhere (Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert). Rogak unearths just a bit about his personal life—a quiet, happy marriage and fatherhood.

In the forest of quotations, Stewart still often eludes his pursuer.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250014443

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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