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RUSH

REVOLUTION, MADNESS, AND BENJAMIN RUSH, THE VISIONARY DOCTOR WHO BECAME A FOUNDING FATHER

A careful account of a man who excited attention and controversy in his day but then fell into the shadows. Fried does well...

A welcome biography of a Founding Father who, for many reasons, has been eclipsed by other figures of the Revolution.

Benjamin Rush (1745-1843) is renowned in the annals of American medicine as a pioneer of medical education and the treatment of the mentally ill. Yet, writes Fried (Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West, 2010, etc.), Rush came to medicine somewhat late, having rejected a career in the clergy and then the law, and he settled in to a kind of general practice that was notable for lifestyle advice: “Every full meal,” he warned, “is a stimulous to the whole system, and brings on a temporary fever.” Well ahead of contemporaries and later generations of professionals, he advocated a nice round of golf, a game that he claimed would allow its player to “live ten years the longer.” Falling into the orbit of freethinkers such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, the latter of whom thought him “too much of a talker to be a deep thinker,” Rush became a prominent revolutionary and signer of the Declaration of Independence, then surgeon general of the Continental Army. In the last post, he advocated for better conditions for the soldiers, a losing argument in “an army that still didn’t have enough uniforms, shoes, or proper weapons.” Fried’s account of Rush’s postwar career is full of oddments: A slaveholder, Rush eventually became a vocal abolitionist and supporter of African-American causes; an early advocate of mental health treatments, some of which we would regard as quackery today, he had some odd notions—e.g., the thought that booksellers, moving from one book and one subject to another so rapidly, “have sometimes become deranged from this cause.” In all, Fried delivers a complete portrait of a complex man too little known outside Philadelphia.

A careful account of a man who excited attention and controversy in his day but then fell into the shadows. Fried does well to restore him to history.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8041-4006-5

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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