A fun memoir for political junkies of all stripes.

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HEELS IN THE ARENA

LIVING PURPLE IN A RED/BLUE TOWN

An insider shares her experiences climbing the Washington, D.C., power ladder, ultimately reaching the position of special assistant to the president for legislative affairs and working in the White House.

Hantman begins her debut memoir with a grabber that’s hard to top: “It’s a Friday in November 2005, and I’m at work. Today that means I’m sitting on Air Force One in the office of the President of the United States, who is sitting at his desk across the cabin from me.” She was at the pinnacle of a career that was sparked at a small Ohio college, where she majored in prelaw. The college’s admissions director offered her a ticket to the George H.W. Bush presidential inauguration: “I was as excited as you can imagine a bookworm, prelaw, watch-Congressional-hearings-in-the-pool type of girl would be.” From that point on, her goal was to work in Washington. She scored a summer internship with Connie Mack, a newly elected Republican senator from Florida; went to law school at Georgetown; and, in 1994, was hired as Mack’s legislative counsel. The author describes these years with her usual mix of respect for the work and enjoyable, equal-opportunity snark: “The new Speaker of the House was Newt Gingrich, who cared about comity and bipartisanship about as much as a Kardashian cares about particle physics.” Next came a four-year stint at a law (lobbying) firm with a “powerhouse government affairs practice.” In 2002, she became Attorney General John Ashcroft’s deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs. Later, she was appointed special assistant to President George W. Bush. The engaging book is filled with bold name politicos (and a host of Hollywood glitterati). Dozens of rich, carefully curated anecdotes include some that are certainly unflattering to a few bigwigs, although they are never salacious. Those who favor the left side of the aisle are likely to be dismayed by several of Hantman’s accomplishments—she was instrumental in ushering Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito through their confirmation hearings. But she was not a total partisan: During those years, she was dating (and later married) Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer’s chief of staff.

A fun memoir for political junkies of all stripes.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5445-0511-4

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Federal Hall Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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