YES, I CAN SAY THAT

WHEN THEY COME FOR THE COMEDIANS WE ARE ALL IN TROUBLE

A book that proceeds from a worthy concept but becomes padded and meandering in execution.

Mixing memoir with manifesto, a veteran comic argues that when comedians’ freedom of speech is threatened, the whole culture suffers.

It’s terrifying out there right now for stand-ups,” warns Gold at the beginning of this funny yet scattershot book. With a president threatened by humor—and who considers it an enemy along with the expression of free speech in general—the author proceeds to show how cancel culture, social media campaigns, trigger warnings, thin skins, and what she clearly sees as the downside of political correctness have made comedians fear for their careers if they say anything that happens to offend anyone. “The best comedy lives on the edge of what’s acceptable,” she writes. “Jokes are nourished by tension; laughter is a release. Sharing laughs with others creates a sort of nonthreatening intimacy that increases our identification with one another.” True enough, but Gold’s argument needs a tighter focus and a sharper edge. The author delivers more of a rambling sprawl than most comedians would attempt onstage, mixing reminiscences of what it was like to grow up tall, Jewish, and gay with lists of comics who have challenged convention, along with page after page of some of their bits. Many of those bits work better than Gold’s own writing here, which could have benefitted from a stronger edit. Her tributes to heroes such as Lenny Bruce (“the Jesus Christ of the First Amendment as it relates to comedy”) and Joan Rivers (“my idol…the funniest and most fearless of women”) give credit where it’s due, and her relating of the price paid by comedians who have run afoul of the culture police is correct in its suggestion of overreaction. However, she fails to offer more of a prescription than “Lighten up, people!” Eventually, her argument loses steam.

A book that proceeds from a worthy concept but becomes padded and meandering in execution.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295375-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2023


  • New York Times Bestseller

ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2023


  • New York Times Bestseller

A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Close Quickview