A strong plea for responsible stewardship of the land.

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NAPA AT LAST LIGHT

AMERICA'S EDEN IN AN AGE OF CALAMITY

In the third volume of his trilogy about Napa, California, Conaway (Nose, 2013, etc.) continues his investigation of the consequences of the wine industry on the region’s culture and environment.

Both, argues the author persuasively, suffer at the hands of greedy winemakers, huge corporations, and the desire of merchants to attract more and more tourists. As in his past books, this one is filled with detailed—and sometimes overly detailed—sketches of a large cast of characters. Conaway profiles more than 60 individuals who, in one way or another, affect Napa’s life and fortunes. These include winery founders, vintners (“mostly an ornamental title nowadays”), growers (a dwindling number), inheritors, and the handful of determined citizens working hard to defend the ecology and integrity of the land they love. The author notes that nearly half of the population of Napa Valley lives at or below the poverty line; housing is “prohibitively expensive, the roads crowded, cancer rates high, and the glaring disparity between incomes growing.” But his focus here is not on economic or health problems but rather on environmental damage when agricultural production is impeded by marketing, when wineries are converted “into retail shops, conference pods, and de facto restaurants.” Wineries, he writes, have become “self-interested fiefdoms” overseen by astoundingly wealthy vineyard owners, too often international corporations. Some vintners have no knowledge of grape-growing and little interest in the actual work of farming. Many, Conaway writes, “are caught up in what amounts to a parody of viticulture, elaborate dramas of money and celebrity far removed from the dust from which hope springs eternal.” One man, seeking “self-realization” as a vintner, confessed that he wanted to make “a difference to people and their experiences,” which, Conaway says scornfully, “is what real estate development and tourism are all about, not agriculture.” The author ends on a “guardedly optimistic” note, citing citizens’ successes in holding back development and exploitation.

A strong plea for responsible stewardship of the land.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2845-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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