Small Fortunes

This may be the last book on earth you want to read just now. Small Fortunes recounts the often funny but ultimately depressing histories of two businessmen — an earnest cattle rancher named Pete Binion and a crass T-shirt huckster named Jim Teal — caught in Texas’ mid-’80s recession. Zuckerman tells their stories in alternating chapters. Teal, whose previous ventures included male stripper bars and hot tub rentals, is by far the more engaging of the two. Binion, by contrast, seems peculiarly colorless, and Zuckerman gets bogged down in the struggles of this small-time entrepreneur. Reflecting on the failures of these men, Zuckerman writes, ”I wondered if there was something in the water in Brazos County that made people dream beyond their means.” Whatever it is, it’s in the water everywhere. B+

Small Fortunes
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