A formally inventive, lyrical, feminist analysis of Chile’s famous female murderers.

WHEN WOMEN KILL

FOUR CRIMES RETOLD

A Chilean author reconstructs the details of four significant 20th-century murders orchestrated by Chilean women.

Trabucco Zerán begins with the case of Corina Rojas, an upper-class housewife who hired a man named Alberto Duarte to kill her husband, David Díaz Muñoz, to escape a “loveless marriage” in which she felt like the “victim of a miserly and unfaithful husband.” The author continues with the case of news vendor Rosa Faúndez Cavieres, who murdered her husband, Efraín Santander, and then carved his corpse into multiple pieces in a futile attempt to hide the body. Next is María Carolina Geel, who shot her lover in broad daylight at the Hotel Crillón. Trabucco Zerán ends with María Teresa Alfaro, a live-in nanny who murdered her employer’s children and mother. The cases occurred in 1916, 1923, 1955, and 1963, respectively, spanning the 20th century. Rather than further sensationalizing these crimes, the author uses these women’s action—and, perhaps more importantly, the public reaction to their stories—to reflect on society’s shifting attitudes about gender, anger, violence, and the law. “Their crimes, while disturbing, are a privileged window from which to observe how the very meaning of womanhood has changed over time,” she writes. “Their contradictions and failures act as a mirror, reflecting back typically ‘un-feminine’ emotions.” Interspersed with cogent feminist analyses of the crimes and the public and media reactions of the time, Trabucco Zerán includes diary entries describing her personal experience with the research, infusing the book with a fascinating memoirlike quality and rendering the narrative voice both personal and relatable: “I had to doubt the word of lawyers and doctors, question the sensationalism of reporters, take novel plots with a pinch of salt, and slowly learn that a question is often a veiled accusation.” Throughout, the language is both precise and evocative, and the author’s evaluation of the various circumstances is readable, trenchant, and intersectional.

A formally inventive, lyrical, feminist analysis of Chile’s famous female murderers.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-56689-633-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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