A powerful, necessary call to arms to strengthen the antitrust movement and fight a system whose goal is complete control.

MONOPOLIZED

LIFE IN THE AGE OF CORPORATE POWER

A cutting damnation of the monopolization of the international marketplace for, well, pretty much everything.

As the executive editor of the American Prospect, one of the most progressive publications in America, it’s no surprise that Dayen eviscerates the flawed system that has propped up the modern economy for decades: monopolies, the collection of faceless corporations that manipulate the system while placing the burden of the work on the backs of everyday people, whether they know it or not. The author digs deep into the problem, chronicling his travels around the U.S. to see not only the macro effects of monopolies, but their very real impacts on real people. Each of the chapters begins with the phrase “Monopolies are why...” and proceeds to use painful examples to illustrate Dayen’s cogent arguments. Examples include: “why hundreds of journalists became filmmakers, then back to writers, then unemployed,” or “why a small business owner and his girlfriend had to get permission from Amazon to live together.” The author covers such usual suspects as the banking industry, the communications industry, and big pharma, but he shines a light on the shady corners of the prison system and even the funeral industry, illuminating the breadth and depth of the insidious effects of a multilayered system that follows and controls its victims throughout their lives. Dayen’s main thread is inequality, a natural consequence of one entity having nearly complete control over a market. Readers may know much of this information, but it’s still shocking to read about the damaging consequences of superconcentrated markets. Economists know how to fight it, as Dayen clearly explains, but getting people to recognize how they’re being used is exceedingly difficult. It’s a striking social and economic dilemma that the author thankfully exposes, just as he did with the foreclosure crisis in Chain of Title (2016).

A powerful, necessary call to arms to strengthen the antitrust movement and fight a system whose goal is complete control.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62097-541-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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