Bunch of Amateurs
A Search for the American Character
By Jack Hitt
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780307393753, 288pp.)
Publication Date: May 15, 2012
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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.
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.
In his new book, journalist Jack Hitt says America's amateur spirit goes back to the nation's origins â?? and it's nothing to be ashamed of. The Europeans viewed the Americans as an "unfinished people," Hitt says. "We were amateur everything." And it's only made the nation better. More at NPR.org
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“A love letter to American culture…as fascinating as it is inspiring, this hilarious book is a tour de force that celebrates troublemakers, risk takers, and the American spirit.”--Publishers Weekly
“Hitt is smarter than Malcolm Gladwell, a better storyteller than his colleagues at This American Life, and a better reporter than any big name you can think of.” --Baltimore City Paper
“I ask myself if there's a better non-fiction writer in America than Jack Hitt . . . and come up with nobody. I've been following and stealing from his work my whole career. His usual mode is to convince you that you're reading a rollicking yarn, while with his left hand building a serious and unexpectedly persuasive argument. In Bunch of Amateurs he brings that to perfection. The book is about cranks, but it is also about the strange crucible of social tensions and intellectual assumptions inside of which our ‘knowledge’ gets made.” --John Jeremiah Sullivan
"Hitt is a virtuoso storyteller and a skilled distiller of complex subjects." --New York Times
"How embarrassing it is to be asked to craft a blurb for Jack Hitt. I'm not fit to carry his bags. Few writers are. Bunch of Amateurs is completely sublime; beautifully written, hilarious, brushfire protean in the erudite shifts he makes--high culture, low, science, history, music, you name it--and just wonderfully rollicking. Who else can have one simultaneously laughing out loud and waiting with bated breath for Benjamin Franklin to alight from a carriage in Paris in 1778? No one but Jack Hitt, that's who. Like I said, it shames me to endorse him, so unfit to the task am I, but endorse him I must. I have no choice. You must read this book." --David Rakoff
"Jack Hitt is a latter-day Twain: a Southern storyteller and Yankee skeptic who slaughters sacred cows with unfailing wit and a childlike sense of wonder at the world. This makes him the perfect guide to the wacky yet inspiring universe of American inventiveness. Hitt's playfully profound book had me laughing with pride at the amateur in us all." --Tony Horwitz
“…a fabulous tribute to amateurs….This is a totally absorbing gallery of oddballs and obsessives on the brink of possibly great discoveries, written by a man with a deep appreciation for amateurs and their pursuits.” –Booklist