More bromance than a rigorous account of what actually occurred. Turn to Becker’s book instead.

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REDEEMING THE DREAM

THE CASE FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY

The two principal attorneys who faced off over Bush v. Gore in 2000 joined forces in 2009 to fight California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage, and, now, to write this light account of their adventures in court.

Coming on the heels of Jo Becker’s polychromatic Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality (2014), this account by two A-team lawyers seems a bit wan by comparison. Although much of the text is in the third person, on two occasions, the authors pause to let an individual have a chapter. Both men have “Why I Took the Case” chapters, and later, each writes a paean to the other. Olson praises Boies’ artistry as a cross-examiner; Boies praises Olson’s strengths in closing arguments. The two talk about their ideological differences, too, but realize they both love fine wine, sailing and numerous other pleasures. They offer platitudes about how political differences should not separate us so severely. Two of the stars of Becker’s book appear early—Chad Griffin and Rob Reiner—but they fall off the narrative train quickly as the authors roar through their federal lawsuit, the appeal and the Supreme Court appearance that resulted in a partial victory for the authors’ side (Prop 8 died). The authors help us see what a massive (i.e., expensive) undertaking this suit was (millions of dollars) and give us some details about how many lawyers were involved and what they were doing. But the whole thing seems a bit airbrushed. Were there really no arguments? No egos? No mistakes of any consequence? They are fairly gentle, too, with their opponents, praising their diligence at times and their strategies. However, Boies and Olson do disdain the “expert” witnesses the pro–Prop 8 team assembled. (Some were so unqualified that their roles ended after their depositions.)

More bromance than a rigorous account of what actually occurred. Turn to Becker’s book instead.

Pub Date: June 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-01596-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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