Among the better campaign confessionals and just the thing for presidential-politics wonks.

THE FIGHTING SOUL

ON THE ROAD WITH BERNIE SANDERS

The deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders tells war stories from the 2020 presidential run.

“Could Bernie Sanders have won the presidency?” asks Rabin-Havt toward the end of this eventful account. Though Donald Trump was a distant target, Sanders did note that “at its most basic, this election is about preserving democracy.” His real opponents were the members of the Democratic establishment. “The Democratic Party is a disorganized institution,” writes the author, “but it would organize against Bernie Sanders in a way they had not against any candidate—Democratic or Republican. Bernie’s premonition that the establishment would never let us win was coming to pass.” Granted, Sanders called himself a socialist and challenged the Democrats on numerous matters of principle and practice. Rabin-Havt portrays Sanders as alternately genially irreverent (“That, Ari, is a giant motherfucking windmill,” he noted while passing by a wind farm) and singularly focused, micromanagerial down to the details of a campaign bumper sticker and insistent on staying in small hotel rooms—not out of any political symbolism but because he likes to sleep in cold rooms, and big rooms take too long to cool down. More to the point, Sanders had unyielding views, among them that “his own words [are] sacrosanct,” meaning every word of every speech and bill went under his pen; and that government, particularly at a local level, can be an instrument for change for the good. Rabin-Havt delivers an admirable portrait of his candidate, but of more interest to students of applied politics are the numerous episodes in which he explores the art of political calculus: how Sanders decided, for instance, to attack Pete Buttigieg among the field of candidates in the Iowa caucuses as “the candidate of the wealthy elite,” along with the horse trading involved in Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.

Among the better campaign confessionals and just the thing for presidential-politics wonks.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63149-879-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 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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