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RACHEL MADDOW

A BIOGRAPHY

Maddow’s own voice dominates a brisk, largely by-the-numbers biography.

Journalist Rogak (Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart, 2014, etc.), who has profiled Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, rounds out her take on controversial TV personalities with a breezy biography of MSNBC anchor and political pundit Rachel Maddow.

Rachel, as the author chummily refers to her, has spoken candidly about herself in many print interviews, speeches, and talk show appearances, material that Rogak liberally mines. The result is a book so filled with quotations that it reads like a very long interview. Readers will discover that Maddow first came out as an undergraduate at Stanford, where she became “the most visible out lesbian on campus” and involved herself in gay and lesbian organizations. She also devoted herself to AIDS activism, choosing courses that would give her a rigorous background in public policy and health policy. A stellar student, she won a prestigious Rhodes scholarship that funded a doctorate program at Oxford, where she wrote a thesis on “HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons.” Returning to the U.S., Maddow continued activism and floated among menial jobs before she landed a gig at a local radio station, where “she was surprised to discover that the thing she enjoyed most was to provide her own spin on the topics of the day.” Rogak reiterates Maddow’s goal to “help people” by “disseminating information backed by knowledge and fact and tempered with concern and more than a little bit of humor.” In 2004, she graduated from the local station to the newly formed Air America, where she started as a “rip-and-read newsgirl” and ended with her own two-hour show. In 2008, MSNBC offered her an exclusive contract. Among Rogak’s revelations is Maddow’s love of making artfully crafted cocktails; her meticulous pre-show preparation, spurred by her fear of failure; and her reluctance to marry her beloved partner because of “qualms” about assimilating into the mainstream and losing her identity with gay culture.

Maddow’s own voice dominates a brisk, largely by-the-numbers biography.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-29824-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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