Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Overview

Writing for Harper’s and the New Yorker over the last decade, David Samuels has penned a disillusioned love song to the often amusing and sometimes fatal American habit of self-delusion, reporting from a landscape peopled by salesmen, dreamers, radical environmentalists, suburban hip-hop stars, demolition experts, aging baseball legends, billionaire crackpots, and dog track bettors whose heartbreaking failures and occasional successes are illuminated by flashes of anger and ...

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Only Love Can Break Your Heart

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Overview

Writing for Harper’s and the New Yorker over the last decade, David Samuels has penned a disillusioned love song to the often amusing and sometimes fatal American habit of self-delusion, reporting from a landscape peopled by salesmen, dreamers, radical environmentalists, suburban hip-hop stars, demolition experts, aging baseball legends, billionaire crackpots, and dog track bettors whose heartbreaking failures and occasional successes are illuminated by flashes of anger and humor.

Including profiles of Pacific Northwest radicals and Nevada nuclear test site workers alongside coverage of Pentagon press conferences and the Super Bowl in Detroit, Only Love Can Break Your Heart proves Samuels to be a wonderful inheritor of the great journalistic tradition established by Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, and Joan Didion in the 1960s. This first collection of his painstakingly reported and wildly inventive writing reveals the full spectrum of his talents, as well as an unusual sensitivity to both the tragic and comic dissonances bubbling up from the gap between the American promise of endless nirvana and the lives of ordinary citizens who struggle to live out their dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Jascha Hoffman
The source of both tragedy and humor here is the wide gap between the dreams that draw these men onward and the trail of disaster they leave behind…The portraits that emerge are exhaustive and often severe, but there is something delicate in Samuels's method. In his stories the random flow of events takes on real meaning, allowing us to see what's hidden in plain view and to hear what isn't being said. He has some of Joan Didion's gift for stripping the layers away until a fraud is exposed.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In this collection of previously published stories by Harper'scontributing editor Samuels, he claims "writing for magazines is like playing sports." Whatever the journalistic game-Samuels's subjects range from Woodstock 1999 to a Goodyear blimp pilot, among others, plus a few personal essays-Samuels is a solid player who sometimes hits home runs. "Every building begins as a dream," he states in "Bringing Down the House," a profile of a demolition company, but "[d]estroying a building... [is] a slow, almost biblical reckoning." Behind the scenes at such places as the Sedan Crater nuclear test site; the antiglobalization Mecca of Eugene, Ore.; and Super Bowl XL with Stevie Wonder, Samuels's reportage is at its best. He wryly flays false constructions of American reality on the right, left and places in between. "Ideologically, what Chad Sweet has in common with his newfound friends in the Republican Party is that nothing he says makes any sense," Samuels writes about a new Republican at a $2,000-a-plate Bush-Cheney '04 fund-raising party. Samuels could give a little Bush-bashing wink here; instead he observes that "politics isn't about coherence anymore." Neither is much of life in our "Golden Land of Mini-Moos," according to Samuels, who captures this "free floating weirdness" with clarity. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A mixed bag of magazine pieces by a seemingly reluctant pop-culture scribe. Even as he laments the difficulties of the job and hints at moving on to some other line of work, freelancer Samuels admits to knowing no other kind of life than being a magazine writer-"Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, but sooner or later, you may experience a few moments of perfection in the middle of the scrum." This collection contains a few such moments of grace. One is when a grumpy old bandleader confesses to having whispered to TV host Paul Anka, "a real bastard" in his heydey, regarding the Ed Sullivan-era Beatles: "They'll never make it." Plagued by arthritis but not ashamed of his mistaken prognosis, the bandleader continues to play 40-odd years later. Another is a profile of hippie entrepreneur Michael Lang, the author of several editions of the Woodstock festival, "even-tempered in his K-Swiss sneakers and Banana Republic bush jacket." Still another is an interview with a Motown session player whose contributions to the careers of the Rolling Stones, Smokey Robinson and other greats have, said player insists, not been properly appreciated. But Samuels's collection also contains too many pieces that are one yellowing page too ephemeral or relentlessly shallow, in the way of so much magazine journalism. A passing argument over whether Nick Drake appears, much posthumously, in a Volvo or a Volkswagen ad might work in a sitcom; on the page, or at least in these pages, it doesn't. It goes far beyond cliche to assert, clumsily, that "Lennon and McCartney were two different but equal types of man," and it was old news even at the time that both John Hinckley Jr. and Mark David Chapman, would-beand actual assassin respectively, carried copies of The Catcher in the Rye. So-so and without much oomph.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595581877
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/1/2008
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author


David Samuels is a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.
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Table of Contents

The Golden Land of Mini-Moos (a Preface)     xv
I
Woodstock 1999     3
Notes from Underground     31
The Spaceman Falls to Earth     56
The Making of a Fugitive     68
In the Age of Radical Selfishness     89
Rehab is for Quitters     103
400,000 Salesmen Can't be Wrong!     119
A Prince Among Thieves     142
Bringing Down the House     150
II
On Message     183
Buried Suns     206
Being Paul McCartney     240
Sleeping on Roads     244
Life is Full of Important Choices     248
Marginal Notes     259
The Light Stuff     269
A Fistful of Peanuts     295
The Blind Man and the Elephant     314
Only Love Can Break Your Heart     345
Source Notes     371
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