A useful addition to the discussion though unlikely to change Mitch McConnell’s mind on election security.

RIGGED

AMERICA, RUSSIA, AND ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF COVERT ELECTORAL INTERFERENCE

Journalist Shimer turns in a thoroughgoing account of the many ways in which Russia and the U.S. have tinkered with each other’s voting processes.

Russia has been attempting to sway American public opinion since the days of Lenin, who knew that his government’s survival hinged on being accepted in the outside world. But when Barack Obama was informed that Russia was gaming the 2016 presidential election, he looked only at the short term—and only at the question of whether Russia was directly changing ballots. “They were not focused at all on what we knew had been very effective elsewhere,” said an adviser, “the influence campaign, changing public opinion.” Obama retaliated with sanctions that were undone by Donald Trump. By Shimer’s account, Russia has rigged plenty of elections before, including many in Eastern Europe, when brigades of Soviet agents literally stuffed the ballot boxes to promote supposedly freely elected communist candidates in Poland and East Germany. But then, so has America, if in less direct ways, as when the CIA poured millions of dollars—by Shimer’s reckoning, about $107 million in today’s dollars—into the promotion of the Christian Democratic over the Communist Party in the Italian elections of 1948. The CIA’s interference in the Chilean elections of the 1960s proved less effective, leading to the election of the Communist Salvador Allende, who was deposed by an Ameican-backed military coup in 1973. As an aide to Henry Kissinger admitted, the U.S. attempted to sway that election by “creating false propaganda” and “overthrowing the constitution,” and it worked. Shimer offers a fascinating counterfactual in the case of Willy Brandt, who, aided unwittingly by Soviet agents, urged détente between East and West Germany and the superpowers behind them: If the election had not been swayed in his direction, “the very arc of the Cold War…might have been transformed.”

A useful addition to the discussion though unlikely to change Mitch McConnell’s mind on election security.

Pub Date: July 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65900-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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

NIGHT

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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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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