A welcome study of political resistance by figures unknown to most readers outside Cuba.



Not all resistance to the Castro regime has been offshored to Miami, as this finely detailed study of one of its leading figures demonstrates.

“Oswaldo Payá was born ten days before Fulgencio Batista seized power in Cuba on March 10, 1952, establishing a brutish autocracy,” writes Hoffman, a Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter. When Fidel Castro came to power, Payá’s family, like so many middle-class people of the day, cheered Castro on only to see their freedoms whittled away. The author offers a well-structured overview of predecessor generations who resisted Spanish colonial rule and then American occupation, committed to a democratic country governed on its own terms. “To change masters is not to be free,” instructed Cuban intellectual José Martí, whom those earlier rebels rediscovered. In American eyes, Cuba became an outlaw nation after Castro’s revolution, when it aligned itself with the Soviet Union. Enter Payá again, who courted trouble as a teenager protesting the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. “Oswaldo Payá was no hippie,” writes Hoffman, “but in his own mind he was a rebellious outsider.” In time, he blossomed as both an engineer responsible for important technological advances in medical equipment and as a dissident, the author of a popular petition that issued demands for civil liberties to the Castro regime. Dogged by the secret police, Payá nonetheless struggled to build a united front of democratic resistance only to watch it splinter into factions, partly owing to his own stubborn insistence on strategic matters. “Oswaldo saw value in everyone working in the same direction,” writes the author, “but not in compromising his vision. He was strong-willed, and so were they.” Payá died in a mysterious car wreck soon after, in 2012. However, as Hoffman notes, his legacy lives on in the form of a new generation of homegrown opponents to Cuba’s totalitarian regime.

A welcome study of political resistance by figures unknown to most readers outside Cuba.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982191-19-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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


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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