I've listened multiple times and recommended to many. This is DFW's most compelling, least self-indulgent non-fiction. Consistently witty, funny and full of timeless insights. A masterpiece of the genre.
The book is part anthropology of a presidential campaign trail, part John McCain character study, and one last (most important) part philosophical observations about the crossover between politics and marketing and what that means for the voter/consumer. The most compelling part, however, is a straightforward description of the horror of John McCain's shoot-down, capture, and torture in the hands the Vietnamese and his decision not to leave the Hanoi Hilton ahead of other prisoners as demanded by protocol. DFW's interjections and reminders as he tells the story for the listener to stop and visualize what he/she would do in such a situation is as simple as it is stunningly effective. The passage remains one of my favorite nonfiction passages of all time as it is not only emotional and stirring, but also achieves its goal of having the listener empathize with the situation and forever cognizant that whatever one thinks about John McCain's politics, it cannot be denied that he is (or at least was), a man of astonishing physical strength and moral certitude, whose commitment, in the face of isolation, torture and potential death, to principles that were inconsistent with his own self-interest, mark him as one of the rare political figures, about which we KNOW that his political pursuits were more than just the gratification of personal ambition.
A nuanced performance. Gets the DFW tone (i.e., the bemused outsider) spot on.
David Foster Wallace's Best Nonfiction Work
This book is about the culture and characters of a certain time and place. It has a lot of insights about McCain but is not a McCain book. That said, regardless of political ideology, it will likely make you regret that the 2000 McCain didn't win the republican nomination (i.e., beat Bush) and aware that, in many ways, the 2008 version of the man was merely the withered faint shadow of the once energetic, practical, intellectually flexible candidate.
Would I? Already did. It's a small masterpiece. An unrelenting methodical, clear-eyed exposé of the flaws, lies, and criminal activities of the fraudster that personally robbed Krakauer of over $75,000 and has taken tens of millions from the rest of us.
This is not Krakauer's finest work (as a narrative piece it's probably his weakest) but it doesn't aim to compete with Krakauer's prior work. Krakauer simply aims to deconstruct, not explain, the fraud that is Greg Mortenson and in that mission the book is an unequivocal success. The read is at times unpleasant, as the truth is sometimes, but someone had to write this book. That it was a writer of Krakauer's caliber, who is personally familiar with Mortenson's charity, Mortenson, and a few other key characters in this sad saga, is just an unexpected bonus.
Krakauer, as the "character" who not only disassociated from the charity and its founder, but also took the time to publicly dismantle them. I'm thankful he took the time to write this mini-book; certain he had more exciting projects lined up.
Nice accents on the various characters. Not sure how precise the foreign accents were but it certainly added "color" to the story.
Confirmed my suspicion that even charities that start off innocently often metamorphosize into vehicles for the perpetuation of their leaders' personal interests.
A must read for anyone who has read Three Cups of Tea or Stones into Schools. A highly recommended read for the anyone who has ever donated or thought about donating to a public charity (i.e., everyone else).
Some science writing has great writing (e.g. Gladwell). Some science writing has great science (e.g., Khaneman). This book has both AND personable narration by the author. Highly recommended.
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