An engaging, maddening record of how to—and not to—manage a crisis.

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AMERICAN CRISIS

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The governor of New York recounts his battle against the pandemic—and, at every step, the Trump administration.

“The COVID virus is not the extent of our problem,” writes Cuomo. “COVID merely exposed underlying weaknesses.” While describing how he and his colleagues fought the virus and mountains of misguided information from the White House, the author inserts points of progressive doctrine (“State governments must reinvent the public health capacity”) and anecdotal memories of his father, also a renowned governor of New Deal leanings. Not term-limited and already in his 10th year on the job, Cuomo writes, “I intend to serve as governor of New York as long as the people will have me.” He has emerged from the pandemic as one of the few leaders who guided his state through the storm, if at great cost, while his bugaboo, Trump, emerges as inept throughout: He’s a marketing man and a cockroachlike survivor, Cuomo suggests, but not who you want to deal with a crisis that involves trusting science, data, and the government. Though structured as a diary of the plague, beginning with a “patient zero” who brought the virus not from China but Europe and extending to the near present, Cuomo’s book is really an extended assertion, unabashedly liberal, that government has a duty to act in the public good, as well as a set of prescriptions for making government better when it cannot or will not do so—as, Cuomo alleges, the Trump administration did when it threw its hands up to “abandon its basic role of managing a federal emergency.” That failure, though, allowed Cuomo to pivot as needed, and, as he observes, New York’s economy is now three-quarters open and the infection rate has been far lower than most other places after the initial onslaught.

An engaging, maddening record of how to—and not to—manage a crisis.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-23926-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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