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5.0 out of 5 stars Obsessions
"American Sucker" explains as much about Denby's obsession with the recent stock market bubble as he knows. Can obsessions be explained? Other reviewers clearly weren't riveted by this book as I was. It resonanted with my own life experience--and that of many others who saw a lot of their net worth evaporate.
I liked the fresh perspective of the...
Published on May 3 2004 by Dolores Dembus

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Something's Missing
Although Denby admits his privilege and the folly surrounding his desire to raise $1 million in order to save his apartment from the fall out of his divorce, the reader is still confronted with the question "why?" (why did he risk so much for a piece of real estate, why did it take him so long to realize that "home" is moveable, why could he not see...
Published on April 5 2004 by Marsha Wood Wirtel


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2.0 out of 5 stars Dumb, dumber, and greedy, July 10 2004
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This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
Having read a good but cautionary review when the book came out and having an interest in the topic, I waited for a copy at the local library. Good idea. Buying this book to learn something about investing would be like buying the stocks Denby chose to make money. At least the reader's intentions or motives would be a bit more rational. Denby apparently has watched too many movies and read too many great books. What he really needed was some good common sense.
The title is misleading. Denby's entire downfall is not based on his being "American" or a "sucker". Yes, he was greedy and willing to be gullible. He waxes eloquent on greed and envy. But these are besides the point. Yes, he listemed to precisely the wrong people. But his initial, critical, deadly mistake was to assume that he could make a million dollars in one year by not doing anything other than "invest". He was greedy, envious, naive, uninformed and lazy. He wanted so much to make that million that he ignored red flags, warning bells, and first-year business student advice on investing.
He has a cynical view of investing, based on Keynes' observations as to the risks involved. That pretty much explains how he thinks he can make a million in one year just by buying technology stocks in 2000. Denby also decides that taking risks means being irrational, that progress requires irrational behavior. What he fails to do is to listen even to the people who he indirectly accuses of having duped him; even Henry Blodgett told Denby to be more careful. Denby seems convinced that Alan Greenspan's effort to raise interest rates was the market's true undoing, This is a bad case of denial from the recent dot.com bust debacle.
Denby's self-absorption with his attempts to maintain his liberal, upscale, upper West Side lifestyle and apartment in the face of a pending divorce speaks volumes for his willingness to do incredibly foolish, shortsighted and greedy things makes this more of a lesson in how not to dissolve a marriage than any sort of morality play, note of sympathy, or tale of snake oil salesmen swindling a poor, innocent, well-read but naive movie critic. It is hard to feel sympathy, even for such a large, personal loss.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Greed and Envy, June 30 2004
By 
Eileen Pollock (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
It's hard to feel sympathetic for someone who writes for the New Yorker and owns a seven room apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Too bad he became obsessed with the stock market; well, as he admits, lots of ordinary Americans lost more than he did. This is a story of shallow values, false friends, and calculated social climbing. Denby collected people with celebrity, charisma and most important, wealth. No wonder they betrayed him. He wasn't looking for good people, he was looking for glamorous people to use to enhance his social (and financial) standing. Surprise - they used him instead. It's an old story. Can't feel sorry for him, I'm afraid. There are a lot of dissatisfied people out there, people who will never have enough, and whose accomplishments will never give them happiness. Denby is one, his novelist wife who left their marriage for unspecified reasons, is another. I downed this book in one gulp and returned it to the library the next day. Don't buy it. Do read it, and in conjunction with On Paradise Drive by David Brooks. It's the antidote to much happy theorizing about following one's American bliss.
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4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting look at a self-absorbed, humbled investor, June 14 2004
By 
D. Friedman (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
This is an interesting look at a self-absorbed and humbled investor who fell for the allure of the markets and the get-rich-quick mantra of the late 90s. It chronicles, cliched though it is, the rise and fall of a man's portfolio, along with his ties to some of the more notorious corproate crooks of the past few years. It is worth 4 stars if only because the author is remarkably candid about his greed, his desire for quick riches through the market, and his admiration and jealousy of the 'rock star' CEO embodied in Sam Waksal.
There's not much original in here, or interesting beyond that rare candor. Candor, however, is a rare quality in writers, and such makes this an interesting trifle of a read.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Oh, Please..., June 4 2004
By 
Richard M. Treston "spirit seeker" (Sedro Woolley, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
As a title, "American Schmuck" may have been more apt. Rarely has there been a more incisive portrait of the effete, weak, narcissistic and self-indulgent New Yorker than this book.
Denby is unwilling to recognize the American disease of conspicuous consumption that has left this culture morally bankrupt and spiritually empty.
Only an American in the 21st century would think accumulating wealth and possessions could justify his existence.
If you must read this, get a library copy. It's not worth the purchase price.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Obsessions, May 3 2004
By 
This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
"American Sucker" explains as much about Denby's obsession with the recent stock market bubble as he knows. Can obsessions be explained? Other reviewers clearly weren't riveted by this book as I was. It resonanted with my own life experience--and that of many others who saw a lot of their net worth evaporate.
I liked the fresh perspective of the in-person stories of Denby's meetings with Henry Blodgett and Sam Waksal. Merrill Lynch gave Blodgett a grotesque bonus after this fiasco; what does that say about Merrill? Self-love helps us all deceive ourselves I guess.
To me, the title expresses Denby's disgust and mystification about the recent past. Well, to those of us "smart" folks who, with Denby, were swept along with the stock market tide, "misery loves company." You'll love "American Sucker." DD
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5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read even for the investment neophyte..., April 14 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
While it's true that Denby is at his heart-wrenching best when he tackles the issues of his personal life (the divorce, the brief addiction to internet porn, his love for his boys, the affair, etc.)the investment stuff is fascinating, too. After having heard the names Waksal and Blodgett thrown around in the news for too long, we now have a vivid portrait of these very human men as seen through Denby's eyes. Denby patiently explains everything from the inner workings of the NASDAQ, and how a drug gets approved with the FDA, without "dumbing down" and keeping the reader glued to their seat. Why has this book been so blasted by other Amazon readers? Denby is a treasure.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stream of Consciousness, April 6 2004
This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
Stream of Consciousness
This story isn't about losing money investing (speculating?) in the stock market. It isn't about getting caught up in a bubble, despite the writer's constant recognition of that very fact. It is more about a guy struggling to cope with becoming a middle-aged divorcee. As the Epilogue tells us, his financial destruction was his way of throwing a temper tantrum. He was being careless and bold for the first time in his life, and he chose the financial markets as his medium.
Although this is an interesting story, I think the marketing of this book - thanks in large part to the many reviews - paint the wrong story. This is not an interesting book about investing, it more human than that. Perhaps that is one of its greatest strengths.
Do you think Mr. Denby is splitting his royalties with his wife? He wasted away hundreds of thousands of dollars of her wealth. What a grounded person she must be to only respond with "the market will come back." I wish my wife was that understanding.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Something's Missing, April 5 2004
By 
Marsha Wood Wirtel (Philly's Western 'Burbs) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
Although Denby admits his privilege and the folly surrounding his desire to raise $1 million in order to save his apartment from the fall out of his divorce, the reader is still confronted with the question "why?" (why did he risk so much for a piece of real estate, why did it take him so long to realize that "home" is moveable, why could he not see the truth of the people and organizations he became obsessed with). The answers to these and more questions are hard to come by in the text. Denby is generous with clever text, but stingy with real explanations for his behavior.
Perhaps his story would have worked better, as another reviewer noted, as an article rather than a book length narrative. The text is padded with numerous quotes from Denby's movie reviews (he points out frequently that reviewing movies is how he makes his living) - a "feature" intended to provide insight to his state of mind at the time certain actions or decisions were made, but serves more often as advertising for his bread and butter work. Additionally, Denby sets up the story as a sort of mystery - we know the ultimate outcome of his quest for money, but he wants us to be compelled to turn the pages quicker and quicker to find out the details. Sadly, the device doesn't quite work out - too many of us suffered the same type of economic fall out and it's just not that interesting.
Still, it's not a bad book. Readers who are willing to set aside these, and other, flaws will find it an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon (with liberal page skipping).
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1.0 out of 5 stars denby doesn't deliver, April 1 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
I didn't find the book involving on any level. I expected a gripping read. After all, the memoir covers a period of Denby's life when he lost his wife to divorce and $800,000 to the stock market bubble. Denby hints at the personal devastation he experiences, but is far too guarded to allow the reader to feel the true depth of his turmoil. At least this reader. The book also lacks focus. Included are portions of movie reviews, re-worked New Yorker interviews with Henry Blodgett and descriptions of 'fabulous' parties held by Sam Waksal, the founder of ImClone. I found it hard to have empathy for Denby, who comes off as a name-dropping wanna-be rich guy who still hasn't learned his lesson.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cautionary Tale For The Investor, March 28 2004
By 
Joe Cool "thedancingcrab" (Bronx, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: American Sucker (Hardcover)
Excellent, lively well written, American Sucker is a cautionary tale for the individual investor. Denby gives his inside account of the latest investment bubble...the tech craze of the 1990's. Along the way Denby described in sordid detail all the angst and pathos the he experienced in his private life ( his divorce, 9/11 etc.) He wants to buy out his wife for the right to own the family apartment. This is his motivating factor to get rich. Meanwhile, we are introduced to the cast of "charlatans": Sam Waksal and Henry Blodgett. Through his greed and gullibity, Denby "loses" 1 million dollars in paper "losses". But wait, are Waksal and Blodgett really villains, or are they scapegoats vilified and lynched by an angry mob of greedy and gullible investors?
Denby ignored all the basic tenets of investing: he failed to diversify, he bought on emotion, he failed to learn about the companies and the sector before investing, he relied too much on the advise of the insiders. In addition, Denby ignored the advice of the New Yorker's business writer and he ignored the warnings of Alan Greenspan. Denby even admits that he was overtaken by irrational exuberance. Yet he stilled blamed Waksal and Blodgett for his losses. Rather than blame Waksal and Blodgett, Denby should blame the person he sees in the mirror every morning.
Novice investors are warned ad nauseum about previous bubbles in history ( Tulip Craze, the Nifty Fifty). Add to that the tech craze of the '90's. For this reason American Sucker should be part of every investor's library.
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American Sucker
American Sucker by David Denby (Paperback - March 24 2005)
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