ALL THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

FROM EMBALMERS TO EXECUTIONERS, AN EXPLORATION OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE MADE DEATH THEIR LIFE'S WORK

A careful, moving investigation of existential matters told with a keen literary sense and memorable personal insights.

A wide-ranging book about the business of death.

Campbell has been fascinated by death since she watched her father, acclaimed comic book artist Eddie Campbell, create illustrations for Alan Moore’s From Hell. In her debut, Campbell works her way through the machinery of the death industry, interviewing morticians, embalmers, crime scene cleaners, executioners, and others. Clearly unafraid of getting her hands dirty, she chronicles how she held a brain during an autopsy and learned to dig a perfect hole from two cheery gravediggers. At a crematorium, she finds that “cancer is the last thing to burn.” This sounds bizarre and even a little ghoulish, but the author’s quest reveals a wealth of surprising grace and impressive courage. Most of the people she interviewed and shadowed are content in their roles, viewing their work as inherently important. “They are trying to do what they believe is right,” she writes. “They cannot reverse the situation and make people live again, but they can change how it is dealt with and give them dignity in death.” There are many touching moments and characters—e.g., a funeral home director who, in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, would secretly allow lovers and friends into the mortuary to say their goodbyes. Campbell’s encounter with a bereavement midwife, who specializes in stillbirths and deliveries of babies who will soon pass away, is strikingly poignant, as is the author’s admission that she will be haunted by the image of a dead child. Some of her interviewees understand what she means, noting that the atmosphere of death can leak into your soul. Nevertheless, the author concluded her journey with a greater understanding of life and death. She suggests that we should be willing to be more involved in the passage of loved ones, both for our own closure and as a recognition of the importance of life—sound advice in a remarkable book.

A careful, moving investigation of existential matters told with a keen literary sense and memorable personal insights.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-28184-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

ENOUGH

A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

An insider’s account of the rampant misconduct within the Trump administration, including the tumult surrounding the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

Hutchinson, who served as an assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, gained national prominence when she testified to the House Select Committee, providing possibly the most damaging portrait of Trump’s erratic behavior to date. In her hotly anticipated memoir, the author traces the challenges and triumphs of her upbringing in New Jersey and the work (including a stint as an intern with Sen. Ted Cruz) that led her to coveted White House internships and eventual positions in the Office of Legislative Affairs and with Meadows. While the book offers few big reveals beyond her testimony (many details leaked before publication), her behind-the-scenes account of the chaotic Trump administration is intermittently insightful. Her initial portrait of Trump is less critical than those written by other former staffers, as the author gauges how his actions were seemingly stirred more by vanity and fear of appearing weak, rather than pure malevolency. For example, she recalls how he attended an event without a mask because he didn’t want to smear his face bronzer. Hutchinson also provides fairly nuanced portraits of Meadows and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who, along with Trump, eventually turned against her. She shares far more negative assessments about others in Trump’s orbit, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and adviser Rudy Giuliani, recounting how Giuliani groped her backstage during Trump’s Jan. 6 speech. The narrative lags after the author leaves the White House, but the story intensifies as she’s faced with subpoenas to testify and is forced to undergo deep soul-searching before choosing to sever ties with Trump and provide the incriminating information that could help take him down.

A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781668028285

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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