This paste-up of aphorisms, punditry, and Joycean puns takes a few cliches and splices them with McLuhanist motifs and updatings. "Brainstorming," the fad of the '50's; the hoary "managerial revolution" said to supersede old-fashioned profit criteria; the "end of ideology" cant — these are spruced up with day-glo reflections on the Cornfeld-conglomerate-bullish period whose demise the authors conveniently overlook. If taken seriously, the book is insulting in its illiterate — oops, grating — references to Keynes and its "post-industrial" platitudes: electronics has made specialization and efficiency obsolete; employer and employee "merge as audience"; data-processing erases blue-white collar distinctions; money "as such" has become "information only"; and (for those curious about the subtitle) "aware executives" will become generalists. The hyperbole would be forgivable if it didn't exaggerate stale misconceptions about prosperity and automation and cybernation ending social conflict and the survival-oriented way of life for business and labor — i.e. the American sociological orthodoxy of the '50's and early '60's. This is only worth noting because McLuhanism is considered somehow essentially avant-garde, though of course its trendy bloom has faded. In fact, it has elements of classic conservative-reactionary ideology — for example, continued efforts to epater the analytic mind; doctrinal praise for the "oral" and "acoustic" over the "visual"; and the trite but telling equation of the "tribal," the "non-literate," the non-rational, and the unconnected. McLuhan himself is not reactionary in any obvious sense; rather he's a good-natured celebrant of "the new software information age" as opposed to the hard, grubby industrial society he says has vanished, taking the new strobe-light atmosphere for a new order (or disorder) of things.

Pub Date: April 19, 1972

ISBN: 0151878307

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1972

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.


A brisk study of 20 of the Bard’s plays, focused on stripping off four centuries of overcooked analysis and tangled reinterpretations.

“I don’t really care what he might have meant, nor should you,” writes Smith (Shakespeare Studies/Oxford Univ.; Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book, 2016, etc.) in the introduction to this collection. Noting the “gappy” quality of many of his plays—i.e., the dearth of stage directions, the odd tonal and plot twists—the author strives to fill those gaps not with psychological analyses but rather historical context for the ambiguities. She’s less concerned, for instance, with whether Hamlet represents the first flower of the modern mind and instead keys into how the melancholy Dane and his father share a name, making it a study of “cumulative nostalgia” and our difficulty in escaping our pasts. Falstaff’s repeated appearances in multiple plays speak to Shakespeare’s crowd-pleasing tendencies. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a bawdier and darker exploration of marriage than its teen-friendly interpretations suggest. Smith’s strict-constructionist analyses of the plays can be illuminating: Her understanding of British mores and theater culture in the Elizabethan era explains why Richard III only half-heartedly abandons its charismatic title character, and she is insightful in her discussion of how Twelfth Night labors to return to heterosexual convention after introducing a host of queer tropes. Smith's Shakespeare is eminently fallible, collaborative, and innovative, deliberately warping play structures and then sorting out how much he needs to un-warp them. Yet the book is neither scholarly nor as patiently introductory as works by experts like Stephen Greenblatt. Attempts to goose the language with hipper references—Much Ado About Nothing highlights the “ ‘bros before hoes’ ethic of the military,” and Falstaff is likened to Homer Simpson—mostly fall flat.

A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4854-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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