A perfectly charming memoir of a lifetime of rural outings by the man from Plains, Georgia. There's scarcely a breath of politicking in this highly personal, eager account of fishing, hunting, and trekking the world over. Only a few gentle environmental asides—e.g., gratitude that the once near-extinct wild turkey (a favorite quarry of Carter's) now flocks in abundance—intrude upon the pure backwoods focus of these benign tales of childhood bird-dogging and fishing and adult days spent in pursuit of grouse, quail, those turkeys, and—above all—whatever the ex-President can hook with tied flies. If, at times, Carter's enthusiasm froths (on hunting turkeys: "Then, not more than a hundred yards away, there was an explosive gobble. I was electrified with excitement. . ."), for the most part he tidily channels his lust for nature and its sports into neat, homespun narratives that provide welcome glimpses of life in rural, depression Georgia ("On these excursions we took meal, lard, grits, sweet potatoes, and coffee or sassafras roots with us. . ."); of the thrills of fishing in Alaska, England, and New Zealand; of hours stolen from Oval Office duties. Two standout chapters: "Dangers in the Woods"—including the time that Carter picked off a water moccasin slithering right for Rosalynn, and the time, also fluting the mid-60's and deep in a swamp, that he realized he was lost: "My body was almost instantly saturated with cold sweat. . .This was one of the worst moments of my life"; and "A Visit to Nepal"—including a dangerous ascent of Kala Pattar peak, after which Carter found that "my fingernails were split, my hands were bleeding, both shins were skinned, and I had bruises inside my thighs and on my buttocks." The faith underpinning Carter's reverence for nature takes final stage, with a note on attending Baptist meetings at a small church near his country cabin, and with a brief meditation on Ecclesiastes. Worlds apart from the other current book by a former Chief of State (Nixon's 1999, p. 435), this refreshing reminiscence, low-keyed yet heartfelt, akin in spirit to Winston Churchill's Painting as a Pastime, is, while by no means classic nature writing, one of the most delightful and offbeat Presidential memoirs ever.

Pub Date: June 1, 1988

ISBN: 1557283540

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1988

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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