A passionate homage to forgotten writers who speak to our own times.

THE DEEP END

THE LITERARY SCENE IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND TODAY

For writers of the 1930s, economic hardship was central to their work.

Journalist Boog, West Coast correspondent for Publishers Weekly, combines personal reflections about the challenges writers face today with a well-researched, sometimes digressive look back at writers of the “Crisis Generation,” who struggled during the Great Depression. “My book is dedicated to the stories of poets, novelists, and journalists who never made it” but whose dedication to telling stories of the downtrodden makes them worth remembering. They include poets Maxwell Bodenheim, Kenneth Fearing, and Muriel Rukeyser (“systematically excluded” from the poetry academy, according to Adrienne Rich); Cornell Woolrich, “grandfather of the hardboiled noir”; and Nathanael West, whose Miss Lonelyhearts had paltry sales when it was first published only to be acclaimed 50 years later, long after West died. The writers of the Crisis Generation identified with “workers of all kinds,” marching with them for jobs and fair pay. Unlike writers today, who Boog claims are “unorganized, broke, and easily manipulated,” those of the Crisis Generation saw themselves as activists, responding to and bearing witness to life in the 1930s. Many were given jobs through the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration; others supported one another through organizations such as the Raven Poetry Circle, which became a “home for struggling readers and writers,” and the American Writers Union, which lobbied for writers’ rights. “The writers in the 1930s,” notes Boog, “forced newspapers to pay a living wage, pushed publishers to establish more humane working conditions, rewrote the way books were sold in department stores, and convinced the government to create a federal bailout that put thousands of writers around the country back to work.” The author sees the Sunrise Movement, supporter of the Green New Deal, as a model for activism in “a world of inequality and catastrophe;” and he urges writers—and readers—to “rekindle the radical ideas” that distinguished the Crisis Generation.

A passionate homage to forgotten writers who speak to our own times.

Pub Date: July 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-935928-91-1

Page Count: 232

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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