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LINER NOTES

ON PARENTS & CHILDREN, EXES & EXCESS, DEATH & DECAY, & A FEW OF MY OTHER FAVORITE THINGS

A very funny and candid memoir, in an occasionally cringeworthy sort of way.

The veteran singer/songwriter delivers a memoir as “album liner notes; something extra, informative, and interesting.”

Fans of the self-lacerating, painfully funny Wainwright III will find the memoir they want here. As he writes of his club performances, “often the response I’m going for is a shiver or a cringe. Making an audience uncomfortable for limited amounts of time ratchets up the dramatic tension.” Though he remains perhaps best known for the novelty hit “Dead Skunk,” he remains better loved for material that cuts uncomfortably close to the bone of family dynamics, of his failings as a husband and a father, of his jealousies and rivalries in relationships with his own father (a well-known columnist for Life at its popular peak) and son, Rufus Wainwright, a musical artist who now has a larger and more rapturous following than his father. With a wit that can draw blood and a confessional openness that knows few limits, the author guides readers through his parents’ loveless marriage, his sibling rivalries, his tempestuous marriages and relationships, the tensions of an absentee father, his deeply ambivalent attitude toward success and stardom, and his depressive insecurities. “When I’m not thinking of myself as the greatest singer-songwriter who ever lived,” he writes, “I consider myself to be a talentless fraud.” Many of the chapters provide fuller context for his autobiographical lyrics, while others reprint some of his favorite columns of his father’s. Wainwright compares himself to those who were “stars in the music business, whereas I was merely a puny asteroid relegated to the far periphery of the rock and roll galaxy.” Yet those who have followed his career for decades—“Loud Heads,” he calls them—will delight in how much more they can learn about a songwriter who has already revealed so much in his material.

A very funny and candid memoir, in an occasionally cringeworthy sort of way.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17702-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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