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Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Characterby Jack Hitt
Synopses & Reviews
WHAT IS IT THAT DRIVES THE SUCCESS OF AMERICA AND THE IDENTITY OF ITS PEOPLE? ACCLAIMED WRITER AND CONTRIBUTING EDITOR TO THIS AMERICAN LIFE JACK HITT THINKS IT’S BECAUSE WE’RE ALL A BUNCH OF AMATEURS.
America’s self-invented tinkerers are back at it in their metaphorical garages—fiddling with everything from solar-powered cars to space elevators. In Bunch of Amateurs, Jack Hitt visits a number of different garages and has written a fascinating book that looks at America’s current batch of amateurs and their pursuits. From a tattooed young woman in the Bay Area trying to splice a fish’s glow-in-the-dark gene into common yogurt (all done in her kitchen using salad spinners)
to a space fanatic on the brink of developing the next generation of telescopes from his mobile home, Hitt not only tells the stories of people in the grip of a passion but argues that America’s history is bound up in a cycle of amateur surges.
Beginning with Ben Franklin’s kite and leading all the way to the current TV hit American Idol, Hitt argues that the nation’s
love of self-invented obsessives has always driven the country to rediscover the true heart of the American dream. Amateur pursuits are typically lamented as a world that just passed until a Sergey Brin or Mark Zuckerberg steps out of his garage (or dorm room) with the rare but crucial success story. In Bunch of Amateurs, Hitt argues that America is now poised to pioneer at another frontier that will lead, one more time, to the newest version of the American dream.
"Award-winning This American Life contributor and journalist Hitt (Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain) writes a love letter to American culture in his latest. Focusing on amateurs (self-trained experts and famous dropouts), Hitt ties the proliferation of self-made success stories to something intrinsically American. From ornithology to astronomy, Hitt chronicles figures whose success stories are often sugarcoated to make them seem less bizarre, and often less interesting, than they are in the author's capable hands. A chapter on a 'kitchen biologist' 's attempts to integrate a glow-in-the-dark gene into bacteria to cultivate yogurt ('glo-gurt') makes the science understandable, the days of tests a collage of comical trial and error catastrophes, and the possibility for world-changing breakthroughs almost tangible. Most interesting are the contemporary examples, including how a Web site used amateur astrologers to assist in cataloguing images of space, or how corporations and even the government often pull their pool of employees from hobbyists and basement tinkerers. As fascinating as it is inspiring, this hilarious book is a tour de force that celebrates troublemakers, risk takers, and the American spirit. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick & Williams." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
JACK HITT is a contributing editor to the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and public radio’s This American Life. He also writes for Rolling Stone, GQ, Wired, and, of course, Garden & Gun. He has won the Peabody Award, as well as the Livingston and Pope Foundation Awards. His stories can be heard on This American Life’s greatest hits CD, Lies, Sissies & Fiascoes, and The Best Crimes and Misdemeanors: Stories from The Moth. He is the author of a solo theater performance, currently touring, entitled Making Up the Truth.
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