Expertly reported, but not for the squeamish.

CLUBLAND

THE FABULOUS RISE AND MURDEROUS FALL OF CLUB CULTURE

Village Voice reporter Owen goes deep inside Manhattan's nightclub scene and uncovers the sinister sleaziness inside the glamorous exterior.

Everyone knows there's more to club life than shocking hairstyles and fierce DJs. But during years of on-the-scene investigation, Owen finds things far more troubling than Ecstasy overdoses and backroom brawls. Prostitution, theft, drug addiction, and murder throng under the disco ball as he explores the empire built in New York by nightlife king Peter Gatien during the 1990s and the multi-pronged campaign waged by the government to bring the impresario to his knees at any cost. While undercover agents fabricate evidence against Gatien, the entrepreneur is off on drug binges with hookers; while his Mob-connected underlings rat each other out to gain an edge over their rivals, innocent—or relatively innocent—people are killed in the crossfire. Crime abounds inside and outside the clubs, and as the case against Gatien grows, so do the number of shady deals various criminals cut with authorities to save their own hides and settle old scores. Incorporating endless interviews with every character even tangentially connected to the plot he narrates, Owen's reporting is exhaustive. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is also exhausting: so much double-crossing, backstabbing, and deal-making is a bit excessive for anyone not utterly wrapped up in the club scene. It doesn’t help that owners, promoters, ravers, dealers, attorneys, narcs, and thugs alike are all utterly despicable and loathsome, making it hard to muster sympathy for any of these lowlifes and even harder to sustain interest in their plights. Owen does an admirable job of surveying his subject from every angle, but there isn't a single one that makes the picture any less ugly.

Expertly reported, but not for the squeamish.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-28766-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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