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REPUBLIC OF SPIN

AN INSIDE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY

At once scholarly, imaginative, and great fun.

From William McKinley to Barack Obama, a prizewinning historian looks at the tortured marriage of public relations and the modern presidency.

Woodrow Wilson loathed all the “ ‘campaign mummery’ of shaking hands and sweet-talking supporters.” Adlai Stevenson called merchandising candidates for high office “the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.” Both can blame Theodore Roosevelt for transforming the presidency and for recognizing the power of “the bully pulpit” to shape and mobilize public opinion. Since Roosevelt, all aspirants to and occupants of the Oval Office have taken elaborate pains to construct and nourish their public images, carefully crafting their own versions of events and presenting them to voters as “truth-telling” or “transparency.” Opponents reliably label their efforts as mere publicity, advertising, ballyhoo, news management, propaganda, or, in today’s fashionable locution, “spin.” Greenberg (History/Rutgers Univ.; Calvin Coolidge, 2006, etc.) cruises chronologically through more than 100 years of spin, packing his narrative with minibios and sharp commentary on the journalists, pundits, and intellectuals who’ve closely observed the spin machine through the years. He chronicles the succession of speechwriters, press secretaries, pollsters, admen, consultants, TV gurus, and campaign managers, each of whom gave the machine a distinctive whirl. And, of course, he assesses the presidents, gold-standard spinners like FDR, JFK, and Reagan, chief executives who were surprisingly good at it—Coolidge, Truman—some who were surprisingly bad—Harding, Wilson—and some, like Hoover, Johnson, and Carter, whose presidencies began well and then spun out of control. As Greenberg chronicles the evolution of spin, noting the technological innovations that have caused the machine to revolve ever faster, piling up colorful, informative stories about the notable spinmasters, charting the dizzying effect of the constant campaign and the supercharged executive on the voters, readers will wonder whether to cry at the implications for our republic or to simply laugh at the spectacle of it all.

At once scholarly, imaginative, and great fun.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-06706-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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