While often an exercise in preaching to the choir, the book is also a fiery sermon that weighs the nation and finds it...

AMERICA

THE FAREWELL TOUR

With a trademark blend of heavy-handed polemic and sharply observed detail, Hedges (Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, 2015, etc.) writes a requiem for the American dream.

“This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races,” writes the author. “It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited up a figure like Trump.” There’s not much room for evenhanded debate in the face of such language, but that’s beside the point: Hedges is ticked off, as ever, and here he is in full-tilt righteous indignation, making it clear that it’s not just Christians who are awaiting the apocalypse. Hedges limns an America whose economy is presupposed on mindless consumption and permanent war, in which the rich are now busily honoring Karl Marx’s prediction that in the end times, “the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it”—health care, education, infrastructure, and so forth. That much seems inarguable. Hedges doubles down on the apocalyptic prophecy as his argument builds: “Droughts, floods, famines, and disease will eventually see the collapse of social cohesion,” he writes, “including U.S. coastal areas.” Nobody said that climate change and its effects would be pretty, but the author lays it on thickly as he delivers a comprehensive, onrushing litany of the horrors that await us. Where he uses hard data—as when he calculates that despite at annual expenditure of $76 billion in the war on drugs, overdose deaths have increased by 400 percent since 1999—Hedges is nearly unassailable. Where he relies on mere rhetoric, as in a rather strange disquisition on sex work, sadism, and capitalism, he’s less satisfying. His breadth of reference, however, is refreshing, drawing on the likes of Plato, Émile Durkheim, and Eric Voegelin—and lots of Marx—for reinforcement.

While often an exercise in preaching to the choir, the book is also a fiery sermon that weighs the nation and finds it wanting.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5267-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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