Put Greil Marcus and Susan Sontag ringside, and you get something approaching this book. A little too postmodern at times...

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THE SQUARED CIRCLE

LIFE, DEATH, AND PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING

Book designer and Grantland and Deadspin contributor Shoemaker offers a frontline report on a panem et circenses scene of power plays, big money and spandex girdles.

No, it’s not a KISS reunion, but instead the world of pro wrestling. Of course it’s fake; early on, Shoemaker introduces readers to the insider term “kayfabe,” which refers to “the wrestlers’ adherence to the big lie, the insistence that the unreal is real.” Consider this scenario: “Ravishing” Rick Rude insults a woman at ringside. She just happens to be married to Jake “The Snake” Roberts, one of Rude’s many bêtes noires. The Snake vows vengeance, while Rude places her image on various strategically located parts of his costume. Kayfabe? You bet, even if Shoemaker quietly goes on to describe how the whole Snake/Rude show “underscored the fundamentally homoerotic nature of the enterprise.” Good thing André the Giant isn’t around to ponder such possibilities, but he remains a hero of the narrative—and, for all the oddness of wrestling and the avariciousness of some of the men behind the curtain, Shoemaker finds in its narratives a bit of the old Joseph Campbell hero quest, as when, once upon a time, the Macho Man set down the burden of evil and shook hands with Hulk Hogan, whereupon his “transformation into good guy was complete.” The possibilities for hipster irony are endless in the fundamentally unironic display that is wrestling, just as in NASCAR or pro bowling, and Shoemaker is respectful even as he looks behind that very curtain to see how the odd dreams of pro wrestling and its discontents are shaped. A hint for would-be practitioners: It helps if you’re, yes, a giant in “a playground for literally outsized men to act out metaphorically outsized tropes and storylines for the technological gratification of the masses.”

Put Greil Marcus and Susan Sontag ringside, and you get something approaching this book. A little too postmodern at times but an eye-opener.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-592-40767-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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