Fear and loathing in Moscow, recorded with clear-eyed compassion.

A RUSSIAN DIARY

A JOURNALIST’S FINAL ACCOUNT OF LIFE, CORRUPTION, AND DEATH IN PUTIN’S RUSSIA

Russian journalist Politkovskaya (1958–2006) questions Mother Russia from beyond the grave; the author was murdered soon after completing the book.

Politkovskaya was many things to post-Communist Russia, among them a journalist, an activist and what some called the “lost moral conscience” of the divided nation. Her final book is a tribute to her life’s work, which included shaming a government determined to vanquish political opposition and recording the voices of common people devastated by the Chechen conflict. The diary begins in earnest, detailing the parliamentary elections of 2003, which are paralleled with the increasing terrorism, both revolutionary and institutionalized, in Moscow. Politkovskaya reports with obvious heartache on suicide bombings, governmental corruption and the increasing “disappearance” of protesters and other undesirables. The target of much of her wrath is Russian President Vladimir Putin and what she deems his ruthless methods of controlling the nation. Later, the author travels to the Chechen Republic to interview unsteady veterans from both sides of the war. She also talks her way into the armed fortress of a complex Chechen warlord, sobbing with despair after her dialogue with the 27-year-old killer. Perhaps no other event affects Russia or the author as much as the Beslan school siege of 2004, where more than 300 hostages—most of them children—died in a pitched gun battle between rebels and Russian Special Forces. Politkovskaya interviews the mothers of children killed at Beslan, all the while punctuating her political reporting with the terrifying details of kidnappings, hunger strikes and other terrible acts of violence and self-destruction. As she mounted an increasing challenge to authorities, Politkovskaya’s work led to her poisoning, incarceration and finally murder by a contract killer in October 2006. “I see everything and that is the whole problem,” she writes in the book’s coda. “I see both what is good and what is bad.” Her diary may lack total journalistic objectivity, but Politkovskaya more than justifies her bias with this emotional portrait of the dangerous lives of the Russian people.

Fear and loathing in Moscow, recorded with clear-eyed compassion.

Pub Date: May 29, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6682-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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