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LETHAL PASSAGE

HOW THE TRAVELS OF A SINGLE HANDGUN EXPOSE THE ROOTS OF AMERICA'S GUN CRISIS

A frightening tour through America's gun culture by way of a single weapon — a semiautomatic hailed by its manufacturer as "the gun that made the '80s roar," and a single criminal — a troubled Virginia teenager who used the gun in a terrifying rampage. In December 1988, hoping to retaliate against a taunting class bully, 16-year-old Nicholas Elliot walked into his Virginia Beach high school and ended up murdering one teacher, grievously wounding another, and was only prevented from wreaking havoc by jammed cartridges. Wall Street Journal reporter Larson (The Naked Consumer, 1992) is after more than just an In Cold Blood-style narrative of a crime and its punishment. He outlines, painstakingly and chillingly, how the Cobray M-11/9, a weapon originally designed for battlefield use, ended up, like so many other guns across the country, falling into the wrong hands. How could the number of handguns grow so exponentially in America, from 16 million in 1960 to almost 67 million in 1989? The popular culture has fanned interest in them, from westerns that created the mystique of the American rifleman to media accounts of shooting sprees and movies and TV episodes that have boosted sales of exotic weapons. But Larson also finds "a de facto conspiracy of gun dealers, manufacturers, marketers, gun writers, and federal regulators" that have fed the huge demand. In the course of his research, Larson attended gun shows, visited a self-defense class that teaches women how to shoot, applied for and received a federal gun dealer's license, and interviewed a mail-order merchant of how-to guides to murder and the owner of the gun shop later found guilty of negligence in selling the handgun. He describes how the hard-core leadership of the National Rifle Association continues to hold sway over a more moderate rank and file and explains the workings of the toothless agency designated to enforce the nation's few gun laws, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (e.g., gun purchase records remain in the hands of gun dealers, who can obstruct the work of ATF agents). An urgent and, after the Long Island Railroad massacre, sadly timely wake-up call to stop America's "new tyranny" of gun violence.

Pub Date: March 9, 1994

ISBN: 0679759271

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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