Next book

THE GHOSTS OF BIRDS

Weinberger says of the I Ching, “its fragments and aphorisms are meant to be dipped into at random.” One might say the same...

The accomplished essayist, editor, and translator marries a thirst for other worlds with a questing intellect in this challenging menagerie of writings, some previously published.

Weinberger (The Wall, the City, and the World, 2014, etc.) opens with a sufficiently engaging revision of the Adam and Eve story and attendant superstitions but then launches into a rather cryptic continuation of his serial essay An Elemental Thing, which, despite its often elegant poetics, may confound anyone who has not read the earlier installments. It may puzzle even if one has, given the section's preference for the esoteric, the ethereal, and the enigmatic. However, the author saves it with brief but arresting curiosities from a selection of world subcultures. A writer of impressive, sometimes-daunting erudition, Weinberger offsets this first section's forays into the obscure with measured, eye-opening considerations of subjects ranging from incarnations of the Buddha and the I Ching to the literature of the city and Mongol history, including a devastating critique of an exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. East Indian and Mexican poetry likewise get their due. These exhaustively researched pieces are richly detailed and unfailingly interesting. Contrastingly unrestrained yet telling is his scorched-earth review of George W. Bush's Decision Points. As an aesthete and literary “archaeologist,” Weinberger also exhumes and recovers—or at least re-examines—the artistic reputations of a number of half-forgotten poets, authors, and intellectuals who were lions in their days. This is done with admirable sobriety and finesse and without a trace of hagiography, though for some, it may tend to bog down in minutiae and oddity.

Weinberger says of the I Ching, “its fragments and aphorisms are meant to be dipped into at random.” One might say the same of this book, which dazzles as a repository of knowledge and interpretation but otherwise may be an acquired taste.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2618-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Next book

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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

Next book

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Close Quickview