A comforting work of art in troubled times.

AMERICAN UTOPIA

The companion volume to the author’s acclaimed Broadway production of the same name.

Conceived before the pandemic, Byrne’s collaboration with New Yorker illustrator Kalman proceeds through a series of sparsely rendered full-color images about connection and how it feels to be together even when we are each alone. The author opens with what seems like a statement of purpose: “Despite all that has happened, despite all that is still happening, I think there is still possibility—we are still a work in progress. We’re not fixed, our brains can change. Who we are thankfully extends beyond ourselves...to the connections between all of us.” It’s a slim, suggestive volume, with sparing use of words amid the stark imagery. At times, it feels like Byrne is channeling the aphoristic, sloganeering spirit of Truisms, the shifting-viewpoint series of maxims by conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. “I’m not alone and we’re all the same, and the world won’t end, it will just change its name,” reads the accompaniment to two drawings of a woman who appears to be very much alone, dancing. “We’re only tourists in this life,” says another. Taken together, all of the text would likely fit on one page, and the sketches can be flipped through in a matter of minutes. The book is not a substitute for Byrne’s music or the Broadway musical—which is scheduled to return in September and will soon become a documentary by Spike Lee—but it does share the same sense of artistic daring, naiveté, and childlike wonder. “Here is an area of great confusion / No more information now / This is my job,” reads a simple haikulike passage that accompanies a series of seemingly unconnected drawings that proceed to the assurance, “It is safe right where you are.”

A comforting work of art in troubled times.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-668-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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