A worthy, if gloomy, contribution to the political-philosophical literature.

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FEAR

THE HISTORY OF A POLITICAL IDEA

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—and the uses to which the powers that be are putting that fear.

States and rulers have traded on fear since time immemorial; it has proven useful to them to have a body of subjects that is afraid of external enemies, the elements, and the rulers and states themselves. But there’s fear and then there’s fear, and Robin (Political Science/Brooklyn College) usefully distinguishes the collective fear of faraway danger from the fears “arising from the vertical conflicts and cleavages endemic to a society,” the “inequities of wealth, status, and power.” In other words, one can be afraid of the international communist conspiracy, say, while also being afraid of unemployment and poverty. Such fears, Robin writes, are very real, and he traces the views of classical political philosophers on such issues. He finds the work of Thomas Hobbes particularly germane to the discussion, for Hobbes’s Leviathan evokes a world of disorder, revolution, turmoil, and constant fear, succeeded by “quiet complacence and sober regard for family, business, locality, and self” once order is restored. As for the history of fear in our own country, Robin notes that what distinguished the 1950s from other times was not necessarily the fear of nuclear annihilation, though that was certainly a novelty, but the fear that resulted from an unprecedented level of political repression. “Fear,” he writes, didn’t destroy Cold War America: it tamed it,” only to dissolve into Hobbesean chaos with the ’60s. Provocatively, Robin examines the events surrounding 9/11 in light of the fear of both the terrorists and their targets: the Islamicists, he writes, were made anxious by “the loss of premodernity, the ruined solidarity of dead or dying traditions, the unscripted free-for-all of individualism.” And, of course, their actions raised new levels of fear. Robin foresees that more fear will follow: “not of radical Islam, but of the domestic rulers that fear has left behind.”

A worthy, if gloomy, contribution to the political-philosophical literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-19-515702-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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