A wise perspective on America’s cultural divide.

IN DEFENSE OF ELITISM

WHY I'M BETTER THAN YOU AND YOU'RE BETTER THAN SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T BUY THIS BOOK

The rise of populism inspired a journalist’s search for answers.

Former Time staff writer and columnist Stein (Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, 2012) brings wit, irreverence, and considerable thoughtfulness to a timely issue: the rise of anti-elitism in politics, science, education, and many other areas that privilege knowledge and expertise. “Elites are people who think; populists are people who believe,” he writes. “Elites defer to experts; populists listen to their own guts. Elites value cooperation; populists are tribal.” To help elites turn back the populist trend, the author decided to investigate what populists want, why they think as they do, and how elites can maintain and defend their authority in a changing world. His search took him to Miami, Texas, a town of about 600 residents, more than 95 percent of them Trump voters. As he expected, they own guns, are faithful congregants of the First Baptist Church, and take every opportunity “to delegitimize expertise.” The Miamians think that hyphenated Americans only inflame racial and ethnic conflict. “Elites may have not caused racism,” they contend, “but they’ve magnified racial tensions, in the same way that abolitionists exacerbated our nation’s problem with slavery.” They trust one another but not their country. “They’re living in a remote tribal island,” Stein concludes, “untouched by the last thirty years.” Yet, they welcomed the author—a journalist and a Jew—warmly. Stein’s research also took him to elite conferences, where, he discovered, “the elite dream, is not to own a yacht but to give a TED talk.” Among Stein’s interviewees are FOX political commentator Tucker Carlson, who rants against diversity, and “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, who has bought into the “primordial masculinity” of populism, along with its conspiracy theories. Stein repeatedly—and persuasively—makes a case for expertise. “The world seems fragile and I want trustworthy, trained people running it,” he writes. As for the “Intellectual Elites” who do, precariously, run the world, he offers a word of advice: respect. Listen without judging or mocking; negotiate with empathy.

A wise perspective on America’s cultural divide.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-9147-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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