Urbane, penetrating cultural analysis.

WHO WILL PAY REPARATIONS ON MY SOUL?

ESSAYS

Intellectually vigorous essays on Black culture.

McCarthy, who teaches in the English and African American Studies departments at Harvard, makes an impressive book debut with a collection of 20 deftly crafted essays, some previously published in journals such as n+1, the Nation, and the Point, where he is an editor. McCarthy’s range is broad, encompassing writers Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, and Walter Benjamin; artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kara Walker, and French urban documentarian JR; singer/songwriter D’Angelo and cultural historian Saidiya Hartman; trap music; Frank B. Wilderson III and Afropessimism; and French society. Addressed in part “to the younger generations, struggling right now to find their footing in a deeply troubled world,” McCarthy’s writings on art, politics, and Black experience contribute to what he sees as “a deep yearning in our society not only for sensate, intelligent, moral reasoning, but also for the prophetic witness unique to the black radical tradition.” In the title essay, the author responds to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations,” which incited much debate after it appeared in the Atlantic in 2014. Reparation for racial injustice, McCarthy argues, is “a moral rather than a material debt.” Although he acknowledges that Coates is justified in focusing on the wealth gap between Whites and Blacks, McCarthy takes the pragmatic view that reforms in education, sentencing, policing, and community empowerment are more achievable—and more significant. “The way to do justice to an oppressed minority is to allow it to flourish,” he writes, rather than to quantify, monetize, or value humans in dollar amounts. “Reparations should be about bending the social good once again toward freedom and the good life.” Having grown up in Paris, where he moved with his parents, both journalists, when he was 8, the author bears witness to “the Paris of color, of difference” that marginalizes Black immigrants. The tragic terrorist attacks at Bataclan in 2015, writes McCarthy, communicated “a desperate will to power” by those who believe verbal expression impossible.

Urbane, penetrating cultural analysis.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-648-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

more