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THEY ONLY LOOK DEAD

WHY PROGRESSIVES WILL DOMINATE THE NEXT POLITICAL ERA

Washington Post columnist Dionne (Why Americans Hate Politics, 1991) turns his attention to the so-called Republican realignment of the 1994 elections and reaches a surprising conclusion. ``The new radicalism in American politics means that the debate in 1996 and beyond is not simply a contest between political parties,'' Dionne writes, ``It is a confrontation between fundamentally different approaches to economic turbulence, moral uncertainty and international disorder.'' Dionne argues convincingly that there is actually ample precedent for the upheavals affecting the American political scene today; he draws striking parallels with the last third of the 19th century and the rise of the Progressive movement. A shrewd social critic with a good grasp of history, he argues that American politics is undergoing four simultaneous and interlinked crises: The first is the impact of the increasingly globalized economy—downsizing, loss of jobs, benefits, and wages; that in turn leads to a crisis of politics, as government is unable to protect its constituents and offer socioeconomic stability; then, the new economic realities batter the family, precipitating a moral crisis; and finally, the postCold War blues force Americans to face hard questions about the place of their country on the changing map of the world. The problem, he argues, is that politicians and ideologues have used the four crises like a shell game, manipulating one to avoid dealing with another. He traces the rise of disaffected middle-class voters (the ``Anxious Middle''), and offers sterling analyses of why the Clinton administration has failed on the Hill and where the shortcomings of Newt Gingrich's vision lie. Dionne points out that Gingrich ``seeks to define away almost all the problems that Americans want politicians to grapple with''—a recipe for disaster. The 1995 election results suggest that Dionne may be onto something that nobody else has noticed. If the Republican Revolution does indeed stall, Dionne's convincing and acute analysis will have predicted it. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80768-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1995

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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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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