A sobering read, though Johnson offers a solution to America’s imperial woes: Follow Britain’s lead and jettison both empire...

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NEMESIS

THE LAST DAYS OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC

A paean—perhaps premature, perhaps overdue—for a republic-turned-empire.

For those of a blue-state bent, the midterm election of 2006 may seem to have changed things for the better. But political scientist and liberal commentator Johnson (Blowback, 2000, etc.) isn’t biting. “I believe,” he writes, “that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have led the country into a perilous cul-de-sac, but they did not do it alone and removing them from office will not necessarily solve the problem.” The problem, writ large, is the post–World War II transformation of America into a super-state served by client governments around the world whose citizens, for various reasons, may not be happy about the association. (Hence the “blowback” of which Johnson has written at length elsewhere.) Secretively seeking to further America’s unacknowledged imperial aims, government officials authorize actions that do not befit a republic supposedly ruled by checks and balances. Take former CIA head William Casey, for instance, who “saw political Islam and the Catholic Church as natural allies in covert actions against Soviet imperialism.” It was Casey, in Johnson’s assessment, who was responsible for the United States’ strange-bedfellows alliance with the Islamic fundamentalists who morphed into the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Talk about blowback—but there’s more, the author shows, as he examines imperious American “status of forces agreements” here; the Bush administration’s mishandling of international events there; and the eerie resemblances between our time and that of Augustus Caesar.

A sobering read, though Johnson offers a solution to America’s imperial woes: Follow Britain’s lead and jettison both empire and the world-policeman role. Given the alternatives, it seems an idea worth exploring.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-8050-7911-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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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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