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THE LAST CAMPAIGN

ROBERT F. KENNEDY AND 82 DAYS THAT INSPIRED AMERICA

Generous without being slavish, beautifully capturing Kennedy’s passion and dignity.

Tremendously moving chronicle of Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 run for president.

Addressing the needs of a “wounded nation”—mired in the Vietnam War, complacent about poverty and inequity—Senator Kennedy announced his candidacy on March 16, 1968, offering to lead America back to “those ideals which are the source of national strength and generosity and compassion of deed.” Clarke (Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech that Changed America, 2004, etc.) follows on Bobby’s heels as he plunged headlong into his campaign, from Kansas and Indiana to Oregon and California, throwing off his brother’s mantle and becoming at last his own man. He spoke passionately, almost recklessly, inciting crowds to frenzy with his idealistic speeches about the moral shame of Vietnam, the needs of the poor and minorities and the responsibility of each American. Incorporating accounts by a gamut of reporters, politicians, family and “Honorary Kennedys,” as well as extracts from Bobby’s own stunning stump speeches, Clarke compellingly recreates this “huge, joyous adventure.” Seized by grief and guilt over his brother’s assassination and morally opposed to the war and to President Johnson’s reelection yet unable to reconcile himself to Eugene McCarthy’s candidacy, Kennedy (but not all his advisers) decided it was now or never, and his gradual but determined evolution into a fearless, formidable, winning candidate makes stupendous reading. Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection robbed him of an antagonist, but when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, Kennedy quelled riots with his heartfelt speeches and become King’s “real successor.” Many worried that King and JFK would not be the last; Clarke quotes a heartbreaking comment from one reporter, who dubbed Bobby’s decision to campaign virtually unprotected by security as “slow-motion suicide.” The hope he inspired, though eclipsed by his assassination on June 6, still proves instructive and pertinent, especially in this election year.

Generous without being slavish, beautifully capturing Kennedy’s passion and dignity.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7792-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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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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