Readers with an interest in global political trends will want to consult this skillfully argued book.

THE POLITICS OF OUR TIME

POPULISM, NATIONALISM, SOCIALISM

A sobering assessment of recent history as a string of poorly managed catastrophes.

Gathering and updating three previously published reports, Judis voices an intriguing thesis: that “all the decades of modern history—beset by the emergence of rival nation-states and imperialisms, the ups and downs of global capitalism, war, and natural disasters—can be described as times of crisis.” One of the increasingly evident trends Judis identifies is the democratic world’s willingness to slide into authoritarianism as a response to these challenges. That tendency comes from both left and right, which agree on a few points, especially inequality and the problems of globalism and neoliberalism. To these the right adds “an exclusionary nationalism that limited who was included in ‘the people,’ and charged elites with coddling an outsider group of illegal immigrants, refugees, or Muslims.” The American exponent of such values, Donald Trump, gained office because of his appeal to those left behind by economic progress. However, the author also argues that Hillary Clinton “ran an extraordinarily inept campaign (ignoring those areas of the country that had been hard hit by neoliberal neglect).” Judis reaches back several decades to identify the origins of the modern revivals of populism and nationalism on the one hand and socialism on the other. One proponent of a recognizably modern nationalism was Ross Perot, who led the race against Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush until losing credibility by claiming that “the Black Panther Party, on contract with the Viet Cong, had once tried to break into his house.” But then, as Judis notes in his on-the-ground reporting from Arizona on the promulgation of new exclusionary laws in 2010, he observed that many people were in mortal fear that “al-Qaeda operatives were sneaking across the border.” The author projects that the class and geographical (urban vs. rural) divide is likely to grow, and with it, the problems he so cogently analyzes.

Readers with an interest in global political trends will want to consult this skillfully argued book.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73591-360-5

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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