Close to authoritative but far from thrilling: Considering the tumultuous events the author chronicles, his account is...

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RIGHT OF THE DIAL

THE RISE OF CLEAR CHANNEL AND THE FALL OF COMMERICAL RADIO

How the giant media and advertising conglomerate got so big. (Hint: It wasn’t high-quality programming.)

Despite the title, Foege (The Empire God Built: Inside Pat Robertson’s Media Machine, 1996, etc.) doesn’t pay much attention to the proposition, loudly voiced by its many critics, that Clear Channel is a vocal ally of the right wing, broadcasting Rush Limbaugh and contributing big bucks to the GOP. He focuses more on dissecting the company’s role over the past two decades in massively consolidating America’s crazy-quilt network of local radio stations and analyzing what that has meant for the industry and the United States as a whole. The Texas-based corporation was started by Lowry Mays, a folksy San Antonio businessman who invested in a failing country-music FM station in 1972, when 90 percent of the country still listened to AM. Buoyed by the deal-making passion of Mays and sons Mark and Randall, as well as the shortsighted deregulatory fervor and merger mania of the ’80s and ’90s, the company began buying up stations at an increasingly accelerated pace. Today, Clear Channel is the largest media company in the nation, owning more than a thousand radio stations, dozens of TV stations, hundreds of concert venues and hundreds of thousands of billboards. None of this was done with an interest in anything but the bottom line. The company cared not a whit about improving the product, Foege makes clear, quoting a Clear Channel dealmaker who once said, “programming is the shit we run between the commercials.” Unsurprisingly, quality suffered as the company grew and flexed its muscles as a near-monopolistic power, running many radio stations in smaller markets by remote control and homogenizing content across the nation.

Close to authoritative but far from thrilling: Considering the tumultuous events the author chronicles, his account is surprisingly dry.

Pub Date: April 8, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-571-21106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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