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Only Love Can Break Your Heart

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  51 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
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 tra ...more
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by The New Press
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Andrew McMillen
Sep 29, 2014 Andrew McMillen rated it it was amazing
A fantastic collection of essays by one of the finest living American non-fiction writers. After I finished reading this, I turned to the front and started over. There's just so much to learn from how Samuels frames scenes and characters. His essay on Woodstock 1999, in particular, has changed how I’ll look at writing about music festivals in future. Like John Jeremiah Sullivan’s ‘Upon This Rock’, it’s barely about the bands who played, but the scenes he witnessed and the people he met. 'The Lig ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Chavi rated it liked it
'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' is a collection of magazine pieces by the journalist David Samuels. The book is difficult to rate because the quality is inconsistent, though it leans towards mediocre, with a few standouts.
The first essay, "Woodstock 1999", is an excellent mix of fact, insight, and storytelling. The tone is conversational, a little ironic, a little nostalgic, a little nonplussed by the state of the universe.
Aside from that, my favorite pieces were the personal ones - "Being Pau
Apr 25, 2008 Alfred rated it really liked it
This book, a compilation of Samuels' republished articles from magazines like Harper's, the New Yorker, and GQ, starts off with a flash of brilliance. The Preface, "The Golden Land of Mini-Moos," is a conflicted farewell to the moribund hustle of long-form magazine journalism. The first chapter, a surreal insider's glimpse of the nightmarish sequel to Woodstock that went down in 1999, is excellent.

The momentum stands strong with an article about radical eco-terrorists in Oregon and a look at a s
Hank Stuever
Aug 20, 2013 Hank Stuever rated it liked it
Collected magazine articles the author wrote in the late 1990s/early 2000s. In my favorite ones, the premium is on the reporting and not so much on the voice; you know within the first two paragraphs what the story is going to be about, except in a very few of his pieces that take a loping approach. That said, I think he has a pretty terrific personal voice/style and he knows when to end a paragraph and not follow every single digression that magically presents itself. He doesn't seem to have fa ...more
Jun 04, 2008 Jeffrey rated it liked it
Shelves: essays

In this collection of Essays, Samuels shows the destruction of human spirit and crushing life that afflicts many of the people that he encounters as he travels the country for Harpers magazine. He meets all kinds of people in the underside of American life, from a washed up ball player to recovering addicts. The tone is bleak and discouraging, but the writing is strong and engaging making this collection a paradox. You want to read the fine writin
Paul Wilner
Aug 04, 2008 Paul Wilner rated it liked it
I liked some of the pieces more than others; the problem with magazine anthologies. The intro, about the perils of freelancing was very funny and there was a great essay on the difference between reading and writing, with a long digression about J.D. Salinger which makes the collection worthwhile alone, though. Some of them I couldn't get through but maybe I just wasn't interested enough in the subject matter' he just did a very good piece on the pot business for The New Yorker.
Jun 28, 2008 Joseph added it
So far I've learned that reporters, especially human interest essayists, are voyeurs. This one is either a cynic, pessimist, or a realist. I'll let you know when I've finished the book.

Well, I don't remember where I got the recommendation for this book. I read several essays and decided that the author was working out his personal issues with our broken culture. However, eventually I got bored with him so I skipped to the title essay, and guess what? It was on dog racing! Goodbye.
Jennifer Arnold
Aug 14, 2009 Jennifer Arnold rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this collection, but there was something about Samuels' writing that didn't appeal to me. He had great stories to tell - Woodstock 99 (the MTV/corporate/garbage-creating/riot-inspiring debacle), Derby Lane (the old school dog track in St. Pete), anarchists in Oregon - but there was always something missing, or he seemed to drop the really interesting parts of the story for some personal observation that was either depressing or annoying.
Aug 02, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
I only picked this book because I thought the title and cover art were intriguing. They put a hip package around some fairly traditional magazine articles. As Samuels states in the intro, people don't read general interest magazines like Harper's anymore.

The articles I liked--Woodstock 99, his personal story about 9/11--I really liked. Some I couldn't finish.It was still an interesting cross-section of America. Like a magazine would be.
Jan 16, 2009 Liz rated it it was ok
The journalistic essays (like the one about the family that dynamites the shit out of big buildings) are pretty interesting. But all of the pieces are definitely better read in a magazine, spread out; the same tone and meandering writing style are a bit much in one book.
Sep 04, 2008 Kyla rated it liked it
the opening essay on Woodstock 99 is worth the price of admission alone. Sadly - not his fault, he's a terrific writer - but the rest of the collection can't hold up. They are magazine pieces - assignments, bios, puff pieces...I want to read his real words.
Chris Estey
Mar 03, 2008 Chris Estey rated it really liked it
He's like the KLF of magazine writers; don't attempt this after him. 'What the fuck's going on?'
Sep 24, 2008 amanda rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everybody, honestly
should really revise up to five stars, or four and one half
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