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LET EVERY NATION KNOW

Useful for students of presidential history, and worthy of emulation: a selected Ford, anyone?

Excerpts of selected speeches, interviews and debates delivered by the last president (but one) not to speak from note cards or in sound bites; packaged with an audio CD.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, avow presidential historian Dallek (Flawed Giant, 1998) and New York Observer columnist Golway (Washington’s General, 2005), “spoke in literate paragraphs, and his speeches were filled with references to history and literature that have all but disappeared from American political discourse.” Indeed, Ronald Reagan borrowed the “city on a hill” trope, unacknowledged, from Kennedy, who took it from the early American Protestant religious dissenter John Winthrop; it always sounded a little foreign on Reagan’s lips, but Kennedy—though, famously, the first and only Catholic president—naturally took to the rhetoric of Boston’s Brahmins. Dallek and Golway, for their part, acknowledge that Kennedy had speechwriters aplenty, notably the brilliant Theodore Sorensen, who wrote much of Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage; regrettably, they do not go on to distinguish which of his aides concocted which New Frontier theme. The help notwithstanding, Kennedy did his homework, was smart and hardworking and gave a resounding speech. As Dallek and Golway remark on the best of his public utterances, they offer illuminations and remember little-known episodes. The third presidential debate with Richard Nixon featured Nixon tsk-tsking Harry Truman for using words like “hell” and “damn,” saying that he’d never allow such language in his White House. (The irony, the irony.) The debates were followed by the narrowest election in history, they note, but not so narrow as Nixon protested; even if Nixon had won the supposedly rigged Illinois vote, Kennedy would have carried the Electoral College. And Kennedy berated himself over the Bay of Pigs disaster, which only seemed to increase the esteem his compatriots felt: “It’s like Eisenhower,” he said. “The worse I do, the more popular I get.”

Useful for students of presidential history, and worthy of emulation: a selected Ford, anyone?

Pub Date: April 17, 2006

ISBN: 1-4022-0647-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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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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