Well reported but with debatable theoretical underpinnings.

GOOD ITALY, BAD ITALY

WHY ITALY MUST CONQUER ITS DEMONS TO FACE THE FUTURE

The former editor-in-chief of the Economist finds a few bright spots amid the dark economic clouds in post-Berlusconi Italy.

Expanded and updated since its 2010 publication in Italian, this brisk journalistic account by Emmott (Rivals: How the Power Struggle between China, India, and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade, 2008, etc.) argues that Italy’s current financial crisis eerily echoes the previous one of 1992-1994, and that understanding why meaningful reforms failed to be enacted then may help Italians do better this time. He dismisses as unhelpful in this effort the traditional distinction between the wealthy, industrial north and the poor, rural south. Instead, Emmott discerns a “Bad Italy…selfish, closed, umeritocratic and often criminal,” and a “Good Italy…more open, community-minded and progressive.” As examples of the Good Italy, he offers social movements such as Addiopizzo (“goodbye bribes”) and Ammazzeteci Tutti (“kill us all”), an anti-mafia group. Emmott also visits and praises various nimble new businesses that have managed to thrive despite restrictive labor laws and a glacially slow judicial system that makes it extremely difficult to enforce contracts. The slow food movement in Turin, a cashmere exporter in Perugia and a company that manufactures sophisticated measurement devices are among the author’s examples of the kind of dynamic capitalism Italy needs. However, these praiseworthy efforts don’t immediately address the problem of Italy’s massive debt, which occurs in the context of a global economic crisis due in large part to the kind of unrestricted, unregulated capitalism the author seems to be advocating, despite a brief acknowledgement of the banking industry’s excesses. When Emmott praises Ireland’s governing institutions for becoming “from the late 1980s onward…more efficient and less profligate,” without making any reference to the fact that Ireland is now experiencing a financial crisis at least as severe as Italy’s, it’s difficult to entirely trust his prescriptions for economic health.

Well reported but with debatable theoretical underpinnings.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-300-18630-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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