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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death

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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death Cover

ISBN13: 9780385537056
ISBN10: 0385537050
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

Allegedly, The Noble Hustle is about poker. Actually, it is a hilarious, insightful, and lovingly nihilistic look at creative anguish, the struggle of being alive, and the inevitable failure of caring too much about how things turn out. That said, it'll probably make you better at poker, too.
Recommended by Lizzy, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Noble Hustle is Pulitzer finalist Colson Whitehead’s hilarious memoir of his search for meaning at high stakes poker tables, which the author describes as “Eat, Pray, Love for depressed shut-ins.”

On one level, The Noble Hustle is a familiar species of participatory journalism — a longtime neighborhood poker player, Whitehead was given a $10,000 stake and an assignment from the online online magazine Grantland to see how far he could get in the World Series of Poker.  But since it stems from the astonishing mind of Colson Whitehead (MacArthur Award-endorsed!), the book is a brilliant, hilarious, weirdly profound, and ultimately moving portrayal of — yes, it sounds overblown and ridiculous, but really! — the human condition.

After weeks of preparation that included repeated bus trips to glamorous Atlantic City, and hiring a personal trainer to toughen him up for sitting at twelve hours a stretch, the author journeyed to the gaudy wonderland that is Las Vegas — the world’s greatest “Leisure Industrial Complex” — to try his luck in the multi-million dollar tournament.   Hobbled by his mediocre playing skills and a lifelong condition known as “anhedonia” (the inability to experience pleasure) Whitehead did not — spoiler alert! — win tens of millions of dollars. But he did chronicle his progress, both literal and existential, in this unbelievably funny, uncannily accurate social satire whose main target is the author himself.

Whether you’ve been playing cards your whole life, or have never picked up a hand, you’re sure to agree that this book contains some of the best writing about beef jerky ever put to paper.

Review:

"The eternal tension between good luck and remorseless odds animates this loose-limbed jaunt through the world of high-stakes poker. Novelist Whitehead (Zone One) was staked to a berth in the World Series of Poker by Grantland magazine, a mission for which he frankly declares himself unqualified, owing to his rather desultory pick-up games, haphazard training regimen featuring yoga lessons, deep and semi-baffled immersion in the arcana of poker-playing manuals, and bus trips to Atlantic City for seedy practice tournaments. His journey unfolds in a series of jazzy, jokey riffs on the cultural detritus of poker: the take-over of the game by young 'Robotrons' honed by online gaming; Vegas's 'Leisure-Industrial Complex,' a terrain of soulful soullessness where 'your true self is laid bare with all its hungers and flaws and grubby aspirations.' Along the way, poker emerges as the national sport of 'the Republic of Anhedonia,' his habitually depressive, fatalistic State of mind that recognizes that 'eventually, you will lose it all' — and that playing it safe is therefore the ultimate sucker's strategy. Whitehead serves up an engrossing mix of casual yet astute reportage and hang-dog philosophizing, showing us that, for all of poker's intricate calculations and shrewd stratagems, everything still hangs on the turn of a card." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"As a novelist of considerable range, Whitehead consistently writes about more than he's ostensibly writing about...here writing a poker book that should strike a responsive literary chord with some who know nothing about the game....Engaging in its color and character." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

“I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside.” So begins the hilarious and unexpectedly moving adventures of an amateur player who lucked into a seat at the biggest card game in town — the World Series of Poker.

In 2011 Grantland magazine sent award-winning novelist Colson Whitehead to brave the harrowing, seven-day gauntlet of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It was the assignment of a lifetime, except for one hitch — he’d never played in a casino tournament before.

With just six weeks to train, our humble narrator plunged into the gritty subculture of high-stakes Texas Hold’em. There’s poker here, sure, which means joy and heartbreak, grizzled cowboys from the game’s golden age, and teenage hotshots weaned on internet gambling. Not to mention the overlooked problem of coordinating Atlantic City bus schedules with your kid’s drop-off and pick-up at school.

And then there’s Vegas.

In a world full of long shots and short odds, The Noble Hustle is a sure bet, a raucously funny social satire whose main target is the author himself. Whether you’ve been playing cards your whole life or have never picked up a hand, you’re sure to agree that this book contains some of the best writing about beef jerky ever put to paper.

About the Author

Colson Whitehead is the New York Times bestselling author of Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York, a collection of essays. A recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and a MacArthur Fellowship, he lives in New York City.

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kalireads, August 28, 2014 (view all comments by kalireads)
Colson Whitehead writes uniquely brilliant and wordy novels, centering around such oddball and brilliant concepts it’s difficult not to wonder if something is going on with this guy. In The Noble Hustle, Whitehead’s secret is revealed under the pretense of poker memoir--he hails from the Republic of Anhedonia, where a poker face comes naturally. This revelation sets the tone for the book, in which Whitehead explores the rapid evolution of poker post-online gambling as he quickly evolves himself, prepping for the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, NV.

The book bloomed from a Grantland magazine article, “Occasional Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia.” Grantland staked Whitehead, a (very) amateur player with a regular monthly Brooklyn writers game, to play in the World Series. That means they paid his $10,000 entrance fee, asked him to write about his experience, and if he reigned supreme in his clash with the titans, he’d get to keep his winnings.

Whitehead preps, as anyone would for any sort of epic battle, and these are some of the most memorable scenes. He finds himself a mentor in a fellow writer who demurely answers “housewife” at the poker table when others ask her profession. He calls her Coach. He chooses his poker nickname (the ‘Unsubscribe Kid’). As a test of Whitehead’s writing ability, he’s tasked with explaining a complicated game and the complicated theories behind playing it in a short book. I was lost right away, but I wasn’t reading for the poker lingo. I was reading for Whitehead’s writing, and just as with his novels, Whitehead is able to concoct brilliant language, here with darkly funny commentary of America’s Leisure Industrial Complexes and his struggle to fit in amongst the bling and shine of Las Vegas.

The most interesting parts of the book for me were the vignettes of Whitehead’s younger days, pre-success. He recounts driving cross country with friends Darren and Dan, visiting Vegas and eventually crashing on a friend’s floor in Berkeley. I was thinking as I read, “Could it be? Does genius attract genius like that?” And yes, it could be, Colson Whitehead was cruising the country with Darren Aronofsky, brilliant filmmaker of Black Swan and The Wrestler, among many others. Whitehead also roomed in college, and subsequently roamed Vegas, with the founder of The Source magazine.

The Noble Hustle staggers ground between niche literature and being for the masses--those who understand the game well might find the explanations tedious but love the storyline, and those who aren’t familiar with the game at all might get lost in Whitehead’s final descriptions of the play. The New York Times review gave Whitehead a hard time for draping the entire memoir in these hints of malcontent, with his Anhedonia schtick, and I’m not sure what I think about that. At first I tended to agree, but you can’t be mad at a guy for not being shiny happy person, can you? Overall, any die-hard Whitehead fan shouldn’t miss this chance to glimpse the writer’s life, history, and native land.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385537056
Subtitle:
Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death
Author:
Whitehead, Colson
Publisher:
Doubleday Books
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Humor-Anthologies
Publication Date:
20140531
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
7.83 x 5.22 x 1.06 in 0.8 lb

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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death Used Hardcover
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$17.50 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Doubleday Books - English 9780385537056 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Allegedly, The Noble Hustle is about poker. Actually, it is a hilarious, insightful, and lovingly nihilistic look at creative anguish, the struggle of being alive, and the inevitable failure of caring too much about how things turn out. That said, it'll probably make you better at poker, too.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The eternal tension between good luck and remorseless odds animates this loose-limbed jaunt through the world of high-stakes poker. Novelist Whitehead (Zone One) was staked to a berth in the World Series of Poker by Grantland magazine, a mission for which he frankly declares himself unqualified, owing to his rather desultory pick-up games, haphazard training regimen featuring yoga lessons, deep and semi-baffled immersion in the arcana of poker-playing manuals, and bus trips to Atlantic City for seedy practice tournaments. His journey unfolds in a series of jazzy, jokey riffs on the cultural detritus of poker: the take-over of the game by young 'Robotrons' honed by online gaming; Vegas's 'Leisure-Industrial Complex,' a terrain of soulful soullessness where 'your true self is laid bare with all its hungers and flaws and grubby aspirations.' Along the way, poker emerges as the national sport of 'the Republic of Anhedonia,' his habitually depressive, fatalistic State of mind that recognizes that 'eventually, you will lose it all' — and that playing it safe is therefore the ultimate sucker's strategy. Whitehead serves up an engrossing mix of casual yet astute reportage and hang-dog philosophizing, showing us that, for all of poker's intricate calculations and shrewd stratagems, everything still hangs on the turn of a card." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "As a novelist of considerable range, Whitehead consistently writes about more than he's ostensibly writing about...here writing a poker book that should strike a responsive literary chord with some who know nothing about the game....Engaging in its color and character."
"Synopsis" by , “I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside.” So begins the hilarious and unexpectedly moving adventures of an amateur player who lucked into a seat at the biggest card game in town — the World Series of Poker.

In 2011 Grantland magazine sent award-winning novelist Colson Whitehead to brave the harrowing, seven-day gauntlet of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. It was the assignment of a lifetime, except for one hitch — he’d never played in a casino tournament before.

With just six weeks to train, our humble narrator plunged into the gritty subculture of high-stakes Texas Hold’em. There’s poker here, sure, which means joy and heartbreak, grizzled cowboys from the game’s golden age, and teenage hotshots weaned on internet gambling. Not to mention the overlooked problem of coordinating Atlantic City bus schedules with your kid’s drop-off and pick-up at school.

And then there’s Vegas.

In a world full of long shots and short odds, The Noble Hustle is a sure bet, a raucously funny social satire whose main target is the author himself. Whether you’ve been playing cards your whole life or have never picked up a hand, you’re sure to agree that this book contains some of the best writing about beef jerky ever put to paper.

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