A thoughtful consideration of how and why to protect the vote—and, with it, American democracy.

THE BIG TRUTH

UPHOLDING DEMOCRACY IN THE AGE OF “THE BIG LIE”

A pertinent study of the possibility of “our next civil war,” which “is stalking us” after the 2020 election chaos and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

“We believe many who cling to grievances about the 2020 election know, deep down, they are wrong,” write Garrett, chief Washington correspondent for CBS, and Becker, founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research. “They know lies are masquerading as truths. They rationalize both as tools in a large enterprise—defeating Democrats, reversing socialism, wokeness, radicalism, and the like.” Under the terms of the Trumpian big lie, Republican legislators are doing everything they can to redistrict, gerrymander, suppress, and otherwise alter the vote so that their minority party will always win, which shows which side of the “power or principle” argument they’re on. However, as the authors demonstrate, the big lie is about more than politics; it’s a moneymaking machine, practically a printing press, for Trump and company, who have raised hundreds of millions on the premise that they were wronged but will return. “Every big con needs its bagmen, and the attempted coup had a rogues’ gallery,” they write of Jan. 6 and its aftermath. “Some wore MAGA hats and carried Gadsden flags. Some wore suits or possessed law degrees and, in some cases, worked inside the White House.” The biggest con man of all remains diligent in his attacks on the democratic process and bloviating attempts to maintain his relevance and possibly regain power, even though he’s lost every legal challenge he’s mounted. But as his former aide Mick Mulvaney noted, “When you are taking your legal advice from My Pillow guy, what do you expect?” Unfortunately for the U.S., despite their bright, vigorous narrative, the authors seem to suggest that things are likely to get worse before they get better.

A thoughtful consideration of how and why to protect the vote—and, with it, American democracy.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63576-784-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Diversion Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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