From the press release for the latest book by New Haven resident and author Jack Hitt:
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What is it that drives America’s sharp-eyed bird-watchers, home-brew biologists, rogue paleontologists, backyard astronomers, and garage inventors to pursue their passions with such vigor and gusto? What inspires the amateurs who tinker in garages on their solar-powered cars and space elevators or who set out by canoe to catch a glimpse of a rare ivory-billed woodpecker? In BUNCH OF AMATEURS: A Search for the American Character (Crown, May 15, 2012) acclaimed writer, Peabody Award winner, and frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and This American Life, Jack Hitt argues that amateurs are more than just semi-professionals who are driven by a singular obsession . . . they are what drives the success of America and the identity of its people.
Filled with stories that highlight the ongoing American experience, Hitt’s Bunch of Amateurs is the hitchhiker’s guide to amateurism. Like Malcolm Gladwell on pop psychology, Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan on food, and Bill Simmons on sports, Hitt provides that high-caliber narrative acumen to the world of amateurs. From a heavily 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 obsessive 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, like so many trends in this country.
America is a land of fresh starts and second acts. TV shows like America’s Got Talent, Project Runway, and American Idol help to elevate the amateur to the prime-time ranks. Magazines like Popular Science and Make cater to the resurgence of the do-it-yourself impulses in America. Contests summoning amateurs to their workbenches and offering large rewards are sponsored by the Pentagon, NASA, and even Google. All of this, Hitt argues, shows just how deeply the amateur narrative is encoded in our national DNA. Amateur pursuits are always 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.
Mixing Ben Franklin, T. Rexes, robot clubs, and Clovis Man in a unique and profound way, Hitt’s BUNCH OF AMATEURS shows how America is always pioneering new frontiers that will lead to the newest version of the American dream.
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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 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, Making Up the Truth.
BUNCH OF AMATEURS by Jack Hitt
Crown Publishers • On sale: May 15, 2012 • Price: $26.00 hardcover • Pages: 288 ISBN: 978-0-307-39375-3
Also available as an ebook and on audio from Random House