Novelist Dan McCall details his obsessive quest to become the 1950s poster boy for American optimism. After winning multiple national speech contests and becoming “California Boy of the Year,” his appearance on the rigged TV quiz show Strike It Rich forces him to come to terms with deceptions about himself, his family, and his country. Later, as a student at Stanford, he is exhilarated and disturbed by his first experiences with alcohol and sex. He also finds himself irresistibly drawn to reading and writing fiction. The memoir is framed by McCall as a young adult in crisis, drunk and alone in a dark corner of Calcutta, facing the demons that would soon compel him to become a critically acclaimed author.