Author: Mike Sager
Publisher: Thunder’s Mouth Press
Retail Price: 9.99
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Mike Sager is currently a writer for Esquire after stints at Rolling Stone, GQ, and Washington Post. This is a collection of essays from the past 20 years or so that have appeared in the various publications.
Sager is a very in-depth, descriptive writer, giving you an astoundingly vivid sense of what life would be like around Roseanne Barr, Mark Cuban, Brooke Burke, and Ice Cube and Slayer (both circa early 90s). He also does somewhat interesting profiles of random everymen, such as your average over-achieving upper-class high schooler, a marine in training, and out-of-work actors in LA.
Although focusing on the rich and famous, my favorite essays were the human interest pieces that weren’t entertainment-based profiles. The title essay is an interesting look at young gang bangers in Newark, but the best-written and most fascinating article is his 2004 Esquire piece “Is Something Burning?” which puts you in the middle of a California wildfire. You can see, smell, and feel the catastrophic heat, the devastating loss, the panic, and the small-scale heroism. It is by far one of the most gripping and moving essays I’ve read in long while, and it put not just a human face, but an entire community’s face, on a tragedy that I had never previously given much thought to.
The quality of the other essays are also good, although I felt that some of the profiles were too mired in details and prone to gimmicky, clipped sentences. I also caught a condescending whiff on some of the profiles. But overall Sager does succeed in keeping your interest on subjects you may not care about – for instance, I found myself quickly sucked into Roseanne Barr’s life as if I were one of her chocolate-covered fortune cookies.