Superb writing, subtle thinking. Just the thing for politics junkies and journalism buffs, especially those wondering who...




One of American journalism’s brightest intellectual lights shines forth in a fine—and long overdue—selection from four decades of work.

Borrowing his title from that of Dwight Macdonald’s left-leaning, mid-20th-century magazine, Hertzberg—who, as David Remnick notes in his foreword, is now “the political voice of The New Yorker”—offers a nicely catholic definition of what politics encompasses and who makes politics tick. In that vein, he opens this overstuffed anthology with a piece describing the San Francisco sound for Newsweek readers not yet hip to the scene, instructing them that the audiences for the likes of the politically astute Grateful Dead include people just like them, “like the crew-cut blond boy in chinos and poplin jacket, whose brunette date wears a plaid skirt and knee socks.” Newsweek didn’t run the essay, in which Jerry Garcia makes pronouncements worthy of Talleyrand (“Language is almost designed to be misunderstood”), but no matter: Hertzberg follows it with a generous sampling from the ’60s era, including pieces that hit on Woodstock, the Weather Underground, and the invasion of Cambodia, before moving on to his stride-hitting analyses of mainstream political culture. Organized thematically, these pieces visit and revisit actors and motifs. All are marked by Hertzberg’s touching insistence that humans are rational creatures and that our politics ought to reflect as much. Thus the fuss over Gary Hart’s dalliance with Donna Rice, way back in the pre-Monica days, is hurtful because it “diverts our attention from public questions; it makes us respond inappropriately and disproportionately”; thus the war on drugs emerges as a “costly jihad”—just the right word—that “has scared off some casual users, but it has done nothing to reduce the number of hard-core addicts”; thus the sitting president’s way of catching lucky breaks makes for an especially maddening spectacle: “The fact that the 9/11 terrorists gave Bush what he could not earn on his own, a political majority, deepens the bitterness.”

Superb writing, subtle thinking. Just the thing for politics junkies and journalism buffs, especially those wondering who merits wearing Izzy Stone’s mantle today.

Pub Date: July 13, 2004

ISBN: 1-59420-018-1

Page Count: 670

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.


Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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