A sharp-eyed and disturbing chronicle.



An Australian-born New York Times social columnist dishes on celebrities and wealthy elites while offering his take on the modern relationship between fame and money.

In 1998, Widdicombe left Sydney to pursue a new life in New York City. By day, he sold hot dogs at a downtown kiosk; by night, he sneaked into celebrity parties where he learned “the three golden rules” of gate-crashing: “dress the part, act like you belong, and always be ready to sail with the tide.” His early journalistic work involved covering—and sometimes gleefully skewering—the New York fashion industry. Widdicombe took another job at a photography gallery patronized by one of the Koch brothers, who discreetly propositioned him at a dinner party. As the author’s network grew, so did his access to the rich and famous. When a British daytime talk show expressed interest in transforming a column Widdicombe wrote into a television show, the author was asked to meet with the show’s production company head, Elisabeth Murdoch, at her father Rupert’s penthouse. The show never aired; but the author’s next gig landed him on the “Page Six” gossip beat at the Murdoch-owned New York Post. There, he had the opportunity to observe firsthand how “immense wealth was rebranding itself not as some arbitrary privilege…but as a bold lifestyle choice.” His work there and at such entertainment outlets as Showbiz Tonight and TMZ led him to posit the ingenious theory that it was heiress Paris Hilton who, at the turn of the century, began the trend of “performing [wealth] for the purpose of gaining celebrity.” This witty and insightful book suggests how the gossip journalism meant as entertainment has not only diminished “the impact of shame in public life.” It has also led to a grab for celebrity among America’s elites, who are using the fame they once eschewed to get “more of everything.”

A sharp-eyed and disturbing chronicle.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982128-83-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.


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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