A solid look at the specifics of the case as well as a useful overview of the ideological debate gripping America.

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ALGER HISS

WHY HE CHOSE TREASON

A vigorous reappraisal of the Hiss-Chambers espionage affair, leaving no doubt of Hiss’ guilt.

Retired U.S. intelligence analyst Shelton provides a systematic chronicle of the affair, introducing the events to a generation who, she suspects, knows little of that fraught era, when left-leaning academics and intellectuals flirted with Soviet Communism before the extent of Stalin’s totalitarianism was generally acknowledged. The book encompasses familiar biographies of Alger Hiss, a Baltimore-raised brilliant student of Johns Hopkins and Harvard Law School who went on to become a high-level U.S. State Department officer, and Whittaker Chambers, a Columbia University dropout of exceptional writing ability who became a senior Time editor. By contrast and comparison, Shelton reveals how Hiss used his upper-middle-class German breeding, fancy education and good looks during his two perjury trials to discredit the more slovenly, dumpy Chambers. Hiss, a committed New Dealer, as many communists were, met Chambers when he was recruited during the mid ’30s into the so-called Ware Group, a communist cell in Washington, D.C. As a high-placed government lawyer, Hiss had access to classified information and passed it to Chambers, who had the documents copied then delivered to his Soviet superior. However, Chambers’ crisis of conscience over Stalin’s crimes by 1938 prompted him to quit the party, going underground to save himself from assassination. Until the mid ’40s, Hiss’ activities were apparently known by many in the State Department and FBI, and Shelton confirms the fact (made unfashionable thanks to the subsequent “red scare”) that communists had indeed “infiltrated” many agencies of the U.S. government. The author makes a good case for the willful blindness practiced by the pro-Hiss involved, delving carefully into the literature and documentation.

A solid look at the specifics of the case as well as a useful overview of the ideological debate gripping America.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5542-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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