An engaging, funny tale about salesmanship and much more.

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THE LAST UP

A CURIOUS TALE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF SALES

A time-travel fantasy novel about the philosophical core of an auto dealership.

In their involving, terrifically readable debut, Vee and Miller present the story of Mark Dunham, a struggling young car salesman who’s in an extremely protracted slump at Langford Auto Sales. Lately, he’s even had to wear a promotional gorilla suit to bring in business. The costume was the idea of his raspy old colleague Earl Cochrane, who’s “been here since the Stone Age” and thinks he’s “God’s gift to car sales.” Disoriented by the boiling-hot get-up, Mark stumbles down a hatch into the dealership’s dark storm cellar, where, bruised and confused, he discovers a film canister labeled “The Last Up,” apparently left down there by Henry “Hank” Langford, the business’s long-dead founder. Mark is on thin ice with his wife, Charlotte, while his boss, Alan Langford, Hank’s son, has spoken to him about his nonexistent sales record, so he figures that he has nothing to lose by playing the old film. But in the process of doing so, he finds himself transported back in time to the heyday of Langford Auto, back in the 1950s, when the business was under the control of Hank himself. The old master quickly takes Mark under his wing and initiates him into the finer arts of salesmanship. The resulting narrative, by rights, ought to be a hokey, niche-market parable. But instead, it’s utterly captivating from start to finish, easily and smartly broadening its scope far beyond the specifics of selling to the nature of human interaction itself: “There’s only one way to show people that you really care, kid—and it’s not to kiss their behinds,” Hank instructs him in one conversation. “It’s not to give them prizes or cut your prices either. It’s to be interested in them—to ask questions and be genuinely interested in the answers.” The relationship that develops between Mark and the Falstaffian Hank is thoroughly charming, and the insights that Mark gains allow Vee and Miller to subtly coach any prospective salespeople who might be reading. However, the novel will also appeal beyond those ranks to a more general readership.

An engaging, funny tale about salesmanship and much more.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9854782-3-0

Page Count: 209

Publisher: Atlas Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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