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American Suckerby David Denby
"Denby's movie reviews in the New Yorker are smart and funny, and his memoir Great Books was earnest and good-hearted. But American Sucker is a knuckleheadedly awful book. As Fred Willard memorably put it in A Mighty Wind, 'Wha' happened?'" Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
In early 2000, the bottom dropped out of the life of New Yorker writer David Denby: His wife announced she was leaving him. To make matters worse, it looked as if he might lose the beloved New York apartment they shared with their children. Determined to hold on to his home and seized by the "irrational exuberance" of the stock market, then approaching its peak, Denby joined the investment frenzy with a particular goal: to make one million dollars so he could buy out his wife's share of their place.
Denby gathered courage from stock analysts and from the siren song of CNBC. He listened both skeptically and raptly to dreaming tech gurus and boastful CEOs at investment conferences. He got to know such charming and persuasive New Economy stars as ImClone founder (and Martha Stewart buddy) Sam Waksal and Merrill Lynch Internet analyst Henry Blodget, both of whom would eventually be disgraced in scandals that affected millions of investors. Racing around the country, he struggled to understand the leading-edge technologies of fiber optics and anticancer biotech therapies. He plunged into a season of mania and was swept forward on the alternating currents of hope, greed, hucksterism, and American optimism that caught up so many in that era. The cataclysmic results persisted through the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the corporate scandals of 2001 and 2002, which brought down Denby's new friends as well as his own portfolio.
American Sucker is a beautifully written, mesmerizing account of those years of madness and also of slowly recovered sanity and happiness — a classic tale of the bubble related not by a market guru or an investment professional but by a witty, perceptive, and eloquent outsider. Denby's financial crisis turned into a general midlife predicament; what began as a money chase became an encounter with such eternal issues as envy, time, love, and death. With warmth and tough-minded candor, Denby explores not only his own motives and illusions, but the whole panoply of exaggerated hope, betrayal, and willful blindness that consumed the nation.
"[E]xceedingly well written....The work is more appealing when Denby focuses on himself....More of Denby, and less of the Nasdaq, would have made this good book even better." Publishers Weekly
"For those who felt Denby lost some of the bounce in his step when he moved from New York to the New Yorker, here he is again in full, anxious, exegetic stride." Kirkus Reviews
"Denby is always worth reading, but he really tops himself in this riveting apologia. Habitually observant and eloquently analytical...Denby turns his chronicle of trading madness into a compelling meditation..." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"David Denby's memoir of his foray into the stock market bubble is enthralling, poignant, and at times painful. It's filled with fascinating characters who were swept up in that boom, such as Henry Blodget and Sam Waksal. But the most fascinating character of all is Denby himself, who records with brutal honesty the personal and financial turmoil he encountered." Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
In 2000, the bottom dropped out of David Denby's life when his wife announced she was leaving him. To make matters worse, it looked like he might lose their beloved apartment in the split. Determined to hold onto his home and seized by the "irrational exuberance" of the stock market, Denby joined the investment frenzy with a particular goal: to make $1 million in one year so he could buy out his wife's share of their home. Denby gathered courage from stock analysts, from the siren song of CNBC, and from tech gurus and lying CEOs at investment conferences. He befriended tech stars like ImClone founder Sam Waksal and Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodgett, both now disgraced in scandals. He plunged into a season of mania, swept forward on the currents of greed, hucksterism, and native American optimism that caught up so many in that era — with cataclysmic results.
American Sucker is his account of those years of madness and then of recovered sanity, written with the rueful insight and bitter humor that only a wiser man could attain. What began as a money chase developed into an encounter with such eternal issues as envy, time, love, and death. With wit, warmth, and tough-minded candor, Denby explores not only his own motives and illusions, but the whole panoply of desire, greed, and willful blindness that consumed the nation.
Denby's writing has made him one of the country's most sought-after critics, and "Great Books" was a "New York Times" bestseller. Here Denby tells the story not only of his own decline, but of his new friends Sam Waksal, indicted founder of ImClone, and Henry Blodgett, disgraced analyst for Merrill Lynch.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 331-335).
About the Author
David Denby is on staff at The New Yorker and is the author of the bestselling memoir Great Books, published in 1997. He lives in New York.
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