A timely examination of a would-be savior whose name remains a byword for demagoguery.




A politically informed life of the crusading right-wing senator who saw a communist in every film studio, university, and military barracks.

Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) began his career in the Senate in 1946 after a surprise victory in Wisconsin over the long-serving Robert La Follette Jr. As Boston-based journalist Tye, the author of biographies of Bobby Kennedy and Satchel Paige, writes, McCarthy ran a bruising campaign of “relentless messaging” as “a kick-’em-in-the-nuts type of candidate.” Decidedly out of his element in the staid confines of the Capitol, he quickly built a reputation, even among his fellow Republicans, as “a gasbag and a pretender.” An undisguised anti-Semite, he carved out a place for himself by teaming up with anti-communist (and Jewish) attorney Roy Cohn and launching a crusade against suspected communists in the government, including, he charged, untold thousands of agents in the State Department and other federal agencies and within the ranks of the armed services. That he did so while frequently hospitalized and treated with “morphine, codeine, Demerol, and other potent narcotics” to battle the alcoholism that would kill him was testimony to his scrappiness. Though notorious for bad judgment—including giving a pass to the Nazis who had murdered American prisoners of war at Malmedy, which, Tye writes, “was just a warm-up act”—McCarthy put the fear in his opponents and browbeat his fellow senators into giving him his lead until he finally took it a step too far in hearings against the U.S. Army. The author concludes his meaty narrative by linking the current occupant of the White House to McCarthy by means of Cohn, “the flesh-and-blood nexus between the senator and the president,” who taught Trump a cardinal lesson: If you say it often enough, loudly enough, and insistently enough, and frighten your listener while you do so, it becomes true—and, if only for a time, a guarantee of success for any tyrant.

A timely examination of a would-be savior whose name remains a byword for demagoguery.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-95972-0

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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