THE DEADLINE

ESSAYS

A noteworthy collection from an indispensable writer and thinker.

Shrewd perspectives on a tumultuous decade.

In intellectually rigorous essays lightened with “domestic metaphors” and “maternal asides,” historian Lepore brings her vibrant curiosity and wide-ranging erudition to a host of topics, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barbie and Bratz dolls, bicycles, VW buses, and Moby-Dick. While most essays appeared over the past 10 years in the New Yorker, where Lepore is a staff writer, two have never been published: “The Everyman Library,” which pays homage to her father and grandfather; and “The Return of the Pervert,” from 2018, in which Lepore critiques the narrowness of the #MeToo movement. Many essays reverberate far beyond the events that inspired them. For example, “Battleground America,” from 2012, begins with a school shooting in Ohio and expands to consider the history of the Second Amendment, the murder of Trayvon Martin, the National Rifle Association’s rise and vociferous interpretation of the meaning of an armed militia, and the organization’s moneyed lobbying of politicians, which has repeatedly thwarted gun safety legislation. “When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left,” writes the author. Sprightly essays on technology are informed by firsthand reporting and deep research: Lepore chronicles her visit to the Internet Archive in San Francisco while putting the trend for disruption (“everyone is either disrupting or being disrupted”) in historical context and tamping down the fear of a robot invasion. “Panic is not evidence of danger,” she calmly notes; “it’s evidence of panic.” The moving title essay is an elegy to a dear friend whose life, and untimely death from leukemia, led to Lepore’s becoming a writer. “All historians are coroners,” she remarks, explaining her deft dissection of past lives, but not all bring to their writing Lepore’s grace, precision, and deep humanity.

A noteworthy collection from an indispensable writer and thinker.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2023

ISBN: 9781631496127

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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CALYPSO

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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