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"Looking for America?" asks Sam Toperoff, "Ivan Solotaroff has drawn the map, and it takes you down, down, down, to the junkyard of the Dream Machine. He tells us exactly what happens when the Devil comes to collect and tells it brilliantly. Ivan Solotaroff never blinks. Never". A remorselessly dispassionate chronicler of the absurd, the troubled, and the deformed, Ivan Solotaroff has an uncanny ability to find his way into the private lives of public figures at their moments of greatest epiphany, abasement, and deluded grandeur. With none of the judgement, artifice, or tropes of literary journalism, the eleven essays of No Success Like Failure present a vision of the American ego at its most fragile. Among them: "Sympathy for the Devil" on the life, times, and burgeoning environmental awareness of Charles Manson; "In the Land of the Fischer King", an account of Bobby Fischer's public reappearance in war-ravaged Serbia-Montenegro; "Once a Man, Twice a Child", which covers the criminal trials of soul-star James Brown; "Superhuman, All Too Superhuman", on the pugilistic career and vagina dentata of Mark Gastineau; "King of the Park", on the rise and fall of the street comic Charlie Barnett. In these tales of unknowns, household names, and has-beens Solotaroff shows us what it is like to be trapped in the harsh spotlight of American popular culture, revealing in unflinching detail the hysteria and pathos of our national delusions.
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